“Lady Picasso” from Aleppo

Art is not only an expression of feelings, it is also the result of an emotional intelligence sometimes hidden. In naive 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.

Here is an awesome story, unique and astounding  ̶  such as the 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 naive 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.

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 her their doors.

Her first exhibition was held in the Spanish cultural center 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

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