Edition 2
Jul/Aug/Sept 2016

Jasmine, Another Syria
Quarterly magazine

During those troubled times, it seemed to us essential to offer another vision of Syria through its culture and the artistic creation of its artists.

Jasmine, Another Syria was born from the meeting of people from different horizons and cultures: French, Franco-Syrians and Syrians wishing to show their solidarity with Syria and its people.

The focus will be given on the artistic works of Syrian artists, the history of Syria (and its links with France), its literature and poetry, its cultural diversity and wealth.

Jasmine, Another Syria is meant to build a bridge between two languages, two cultures, two worlds.

This magazine with independent and non-profit funding will be published on a quarterly basis online on our Website syriaartasso.com, and annually as a print edition. It will be edited partially in French and in English languages.


“Lady Picasso” from Aleppo

Art is not only a mere expression of feelings, it is sometimes also the result of a hidden emotional intelligence. In naïve art there are emotional games of the unconscious involved, behind the simple lines and bright colors, there are stories, a legacy, and life experiences concealed. What matters in these paintings is the depth from which they were able to spring.

André Malraux said that naïve artists “dare to believe that time is nothing, that death itself is an illusion and that beyond misery, suffering and fear […], for who knows how to see, breathe and hear, there is a daily paradise, a golden age with its fruits, perfumes, music […], an eternal Eden, where the sources of youth await him to erase his wrinkles and fatigue.”

Aicha Mouhanna Ajam

Here is an awesome story, unique and astounding  ̶ such as the Middle-East knows to create through the prodigy of its children. The story of a talent discovered 85 years after the birth and a unique artistic expression that has blossomed on the late and for a short period of wonderment.

Here is the story of Aicha Mouhanna Ajam, a mother from Aleppo married at the age of 15, who gave birth to 9 children, of whom only five survived. The difficult conditions of life pushed her to create. Often by necessity, she transformed unnecessary objects into works of naïve art with stunning beauty, so for instance wooden crates became stools and pieces of fabric table decorations. This creativity helped her to overcome the difficulties of everyday life. Her talent as a wife and a mother made her an artist with dazzling hands who gave meaning to the value of recycling, indeed by need but also by love of beauty and creation.

Work by Aicha Mouhanna Ajam

Therefore it is not surprising that her children were born with a creative bent. His son Abdelrahman has become a remarkable Syrian artist. It was he who discovered the artistry of his mother. Then aged 85, between 2000 and 2001, artist Aicha expressed her emotions on paper and canvas, telling about her life experiences, traditions, folk tales, and society. She did not seek fame but simply to express her art and emotions, to share her experience; she made art as a mother who seeks to pass on to her children her knowledge, or tell them stories.

So at the age of 85, inspired by her memories, Aicha offered her art to the public in Syria, who welcomed her with tenderness and awe for her talent and her humility. The newspapers named her “Lady Picasso”, and the exhibition halls opened their doors to her.

Work by Aicha Mouhanna Ajam

Her first exhibition was held in the Spanish cultural centre in Damascus. The former director of the Cervantes Institute said following about the artist: “Sometimes the energy comes more from the soul than from the body. Aicha’s example is revealing, she prepares for the viewer a bed of stories inspired from the pre-Islamic mythology, sacred texts, and stories told by her father during childhood. To understand the importance of her art, just look at her while drawing on all kinds of media, like a schoolgirl behind her desk, with such spontaneity and joy.”

Aicha passed away in 2006 at the age of 90. Her artistic adventure was short yet immensely rich and generous. She left this world leaving behind a legacy that speaks of our cultural memory, a legacy full of innocence, spontaneity and dreams immortalized by the light of Syria: the land of the sun and talents.

Text by Khaled Youssef
Editing and translation by Danii Kessjan


Elias Naman, A Sculptor of Emotions

Elias Naman

Elias Naman was born in Yabroud, Syria in 1982. After studying fine arts at the University of Damascus, he began studying sculpture at the same faculty. He interrupted his studies in Damascus in 2003 to integrate the Academy of Fine Arts of the city of Carrara in Italy, a temple of marble and sculpture. In 2011, he obtained his Master in sculpture in the same city and settled there. Since 2005 and until today, he has participated in numerous exhibitions in Italy and internationally.

Naman’s work consists in translating human emotions into the marble of Carrara: of an astonishing finesse, the features of the faces tell personal and universal stories. If the inspiration of his work is Italian, the influence of the Orient is palpable in each of his works. From the goddess Ishtar to Queen Zenobia, he carved the history and mythology of Syria in harmony with the present of his country and his people. His sometimes voluntarily incomplete sculptures on a background of pure marble leave a margin of dream and hope, inviting us to imagine the continuation of the stories that his works tell.

Elias Naman

“I make figurative sculptures in Carrara marble, working entirely by hand without the use of tools or equipment, according to the traditional method. The main theme of my works is the human figure, represented in its different emotions.

I have always been fascinated by the sculptures of Italian Renaissance. If I work by hand, it is also for an ideological reason: I realize an art designed by Man to touch Man. I do not need the use of machines, but the only direct relationship with the materials.”

Text by Khaled Youssef
Editing and translation by Danii Kessjan


Palmyra, the Pearl of the Desert

Photographer Anas Al Rifai

Oasis of the Syrian Desert northeast of Damascus, Palmyra is home to the monumental ruins of a large city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. At the crossroads of several civilizations, the art and architecture of Palmyra combined Greco-Roman techniques with the local traditions and influences of Persia in the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Photographer Anas Al Rifai

Mentioned for the first time in the archives of Mari in the 2nd millennium BC, Palmyra was an established caravan oasis when it entered under Roman rule in the first half of the 1st century and was attached to the Roman province of Syria. It gradually became a prosperous city on the commercial road linking Persia, India and China to the Roman Empire, at the crossroads of several civilizations of the ancient world.

Photographer Anas Al Rifai

His celebrated queen, Zenobia, succeeded in bringing under her authority the provinces of Syria, Arabia, and Egypt, and began the conquest of the provinces of Asia Minor before she was defeated by the Emperor Aurelian.

The ancient site of Palmyra remains the witness of this multicultural civilization that has shone in the history of the Middle East and Humanity.

Text by Khaled Youssef
Editing and translation by Danii Kessjan


Syrian poetry

Here are two poems by Nourri Al-Jarrah, a Syrian poet, born in Damascus in 1956. Today he is residing in London, and is currently the director of the Arab Centre for Geographical Literature – Exploration of Horizons, based in London and Abu Dhabi, whose research focuses on travel literature. Nourri Al-Jarrah contributes to the publication of several newspapers and magazines.

When the dawn comes down with the keys of the house
You lighted a kiss
So that I find the bed
The flowers are on the cushion
And the birds of the embroidery
Beat wings in the room – Nourri Al-Jarrah

Soon after, the night falls asleep
And me
I turn off cigarettes
And I think of you
I listen to the silence
And I think of you
I think of you
I think of you
A little after,
Dawn beats wings
In the solitary room – Nourri Al-Jarrah

And a prose of Khaled Youssef:

– Who are you?
– A child who always looks for the world that’s been promised to him

– Where do you come from?
– From a land crucified on the soul of history and exiled behind the frontier of the sun

– What are you singing?
– Tiredness and oblivion

– And what do you expect of others?
– A little humanity

Khaled Youssef