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Art gallery hosts first Canadian exhibition for celebrated Syrian refugee artist

A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie explores the life and experience of a Syrian refugee who landed in Edmonton. The Euphrates Storyteller exhibition showcases the work of Aboud Salman, and is his first large-scale showing in Canada.

Salman came to Edmonton as a refugee in 2017 after war broke out in his home of Al Mayadin, Syria. He was a successful artist in Syria, but his studio was bombed when ISIS took control of his town and most of his art was destroyed.

Salman is a painter, educator, and writer and says he started drawing at a very young age.

“I started painting as a young boy; to be precise that was 51 years ago,” he tells through a translator. “I was very talented; at first I wanted to be a singer but my mother said I would bring shame to the family.”

He describes his paintings as his babies.

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“All my paintings are very precious to me; they contain the same value no matter what kind of tools I used, expensive or not. It always pained me to sell my art and it takes a lot of time to erase the memories and let them go. I sometimes wished I never sold them.”

Once in Edmonton, Salman met Connie Boldt, to whom he refers as his Canadian sister. Through translation, the two started to work together, looking for grants and art galleries to showcase his work. Boldt says she was inspired to help him succeed in his new home.

“It pained me so much to see Salman, who was bursting with arts and creativity but had no resources to create arts. I started to work with him to understand his painting and help him write grant proposals.”

The Edmonton Arts Council has since given Salman a grant to create 12 new pieces, which are included in the exhibition, along with some of his work from Syria that wasn’t destroyed, as well as some pieces created while living in a refugee camp.

It was put together with Art Gallery of Grande Prairie curators Manar Abo Touk and Mohsen Ahi Andy. Salman and his family was at the gallery for an opening reception last week.
The exhibition will remain until May 21st.

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