Sadik Kwaish Alfraji

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji is an Iraqi visual artist who credits the work of Expressionists Max Beckmann, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde in helping him translate his personal sadness, vulnerability, and longing into a universal language of humanism and hope. Through his poignant imagery, he shows how looking inward can be a way of reaching out.

Artist’s statement:

Once upon a time…
In the family house, and in my father’s room in particular, which was his guest room and daily sitting area, my feet shook as I entered the room after long years of expatriation. His clothes, which were hanging there in a corner, were the first things I laid eyes on. That was a very intense and emotional moment to me.

This is then what is left of my father??
His kufiyeh “head cover”, agal “headband”, praying beads, and traditional clothing. They were all deeply rooted in his identity and sentiment. They, with his big old collection of coffee pots made part of his dignity, respect and sense of belonging.
They were hanging there, high, tidy and clean, as always, ready to be worn, exactly as he used to hang them himself. They were leveled upright on the wall surrounded by lost ghosts and floating shadows, restless and anxious, pacing the room, swaying on the beat of his strong, deep voice which filled the room, together with the smell of fresh roasted coffee and the tunes of old sad Mawaweels.

This is then what is left of my father!
A few Objects,
Hundreds of memories,
A grieving love which still fills my mother’s eyes,
And many unfinished tales.

A moment of confusion.
A world disappeared and a new one aroused, a more beautiful charming world.
Here in this room I used to sit next to him, sometimes on his lap or on my mother’s were I felt warm and happy switching between the two. I used to put my arms around his neck or dangle my legs over his broad shoulders, loudly laugh and sing. Here I used to play, run, dance draw and dream, sheltered by their presence and love.

Oh Lord, where do memories come from?
Where do they go?
Where do they disappear and in which cupboard are they set?
How do they suddenly return, so strong and so intense, which makes the whole world vanish, and then they fade as an old tale which once was.
A tale where boundaries get lost and dissolve in an unlimited world of tales.

I shiver as I now see this before my eyes.
A shiver of consciousness.

Imagine that your body is stretched up, getting taller and higher; you slightly bend to see what’s below you. You’ll see yourself among the crowd, anxiously moving within masses of people, things, memories and emotions. For a while, you’ll lose your balance as you realize that you are not but a little story or a lost tale in a universe of countless, endless tales. Then you know that you are both the story and the storyteller.

Wherever we go, however we change or grow old, “Once upon a time…” would always be the words we carry within, long for and cherish. These words pull us towards memories and times, things and places, images and people that cannot be separated from us. “Once upon a time” is another version of ourselves from within.
‘Once upon a time” is me as I was born. It is me as a child. It is me a second ago, and will also be me as I die.
“Once upon a time” is our childhood, our school, our friends, family, dreams, needs and desires…. it is all our lives as we bear and are borne.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji
NL 2010