Nizar Ali Badr, Syrian sculptor

Born in Latakia, Syria in 1964
Lives and works in Latakia, Syria

The stones of sculptor Nizar Ali Badr recount Syria’s great sadness. Badr chooses to sculpt his work using pebble-stones from Mount Zaphon, known as Jebel Aqra, located some fifty km from Latakia. He has a “moral human relationship” with his friends the pebble-stones, because, he says, “only those who form part of the land of the poor shall feel their sadness”.

Badr explains that he has personified the displaced Syrian populations in 10 characters. “My imagination knows no bounds. I transform these stones into stories woven by my imagination, mixed with the bitterness of reality”. Badr considers this work as being the closest to what he feels: “it is the cries of the poor at a time where everyone has become mere numbers awaiting death”. For the Syrian sculptor, the pebble-stones are words through which he recounts tales and stories. “This requires loving these stones, understanding their alphabet… to keep going and persevering”.

Nizar Ali Badr’s work – comprising almost 2,000 pieces – created in recent years represents what is happening in Syria, ranging from the corrupt parties responsible to the religious believers and everything which has today led the country towards “ignorance”. These pieces are not for sale; Nizar Ali Badr has decided to keep them as a message for the next generations, especially as he never finishes a piece without his “tears washing his stones of sadness and pain caused by the destruction and chaos existing in the country”.

The sculptor ensures the pebble-stones come specifically from Mount Zaphon: “These stones can shout, and their voices are louder than the bullets. Unfortunately, every time I finish a sculpture of assembled stones, I have to dismantle it, because affixing stones with special glue onto special base materials has now become much too expensive. All I can do at present is take photographs of my fleeting works of art: that’s my way of immortalising them. So when I create a stone sculpture, I know for certain that there is nothing here for it to be kept. It will, without any doubt, soon be destroyed, just like the Buddhist sand mandalas. As such, my work possesses an inherent ephemeral character, which requires an ability to detach from material objects and understand the temporary nature of everything in life”.

Living conditions in all Syrian cities have become difficult, but the sculptor does not believe that is an adequate reason to leave the country, least of all to leave the city of Latakia. For him, Syria is the “purest of lands”. Badr describes himself as a “man of stone who is only interested in a love of Syria and in working to show this in the stone”. The sculptor prefers not to talk about religion or politics. According to him, what is happening in Syria is like “a bullring. The world watches and applauds. Everyone participates in the dance over the bodies of the dead”.

His sculpting work is freedom, passion and a livelihood all in one. The reason why he has not been able to find traditional employment is because “he would have had to pay a commission”, he says. “Corruption is like a worm in an apple. That’s why I have not been about to find work. So I support my family with my free sculpting work”.

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