Syrian refugee turns memories of war into art

A Syrian refugee who now lives in Guelph is turning the horrors of the war into beauty through art.

Riyad Alabdullah fled Syria in 2016 after the war broke out.

“Everything was destroyed,” he said through his friend Sundes Alammi, the president of the Arab Women’s Society of Guelph. “It was so bad, there was no life.”

Alabdullah moved to Guelph, but said the images he saw while living through war still play in his mind.

“He remembers all the stories and all the terrors he went through,” Alammi explained on his behalf.

As a way to cope, Alabdullah puts paintbrush to canvas, painting images of what life was like in the war-torn country.

“People tried to run away from bombs. There was a wall and this guy tried to save this young life,” he said, referencing a photograph he took in Syria that he later painted.

Alabdullah has been painting since he was 10-years-old. He said when he moved to Canada, he stopped sharing his work.

Alammi said when she saw Alabdullah’s work, she wanted to help share it. She asked him paint a poster for the Arab Women’s Society of Guelph, which was put on display at a local festival.

Alammi then told Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie about Alabdullah’s talent.

Guthrie went to visit Alabdullah at his home and he posted Alabdullah’s work on social media.

“I was just taken aback because it’s so breathtaking that his work really needs to be shown to the world,” said Guthrie. “I’m just thrilled that people get to know him, his story and his art that he tells those stories through, not only to Guelph but to the world.”

Alabdullah said he is grateful for the support from the mayor and the Arab Women’s Society of Guelph.

He said his dream is to one day open an art gallery where everyone can see his work.