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Facing the world
by Muhammad Yusuf September 06, 2018
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Zakia Kurdi was born in Aleppo, Syria, and her ties with art began early. She was fascinated by faces and looks, and began drawing them even before she began writing about them.

A self-taught artist, whose oeuvre has developed spontaneously rather than being nurtured through an academic curriculum, she is a graduate of the University of Aleppo.

After moving to the United Arab Emirates, she began her career in television and journalism, even as she developed her philosophy on faces.

She began gathering images of women’s faces from around the world. For her, they reflected suffering, glory and strength and social status.

She started using sand along with acrylic to give her work an additional depth, because she found that sand does not disintegrate, unlike soil which dissolves and decomposes.

She has participated in several exhibitions. She is given to exploring new techniques, after due consideration. She speaks to Time Out about her work

* How has Arab culture affected your work?

Culture is always considered the source of inspiration and imagination. I belong to Arab culture, and I think it has made me personally love the sensitive touch, colour layering, hot colours and making white and black colours prominent in an artwork.

* How does art improve the life of women?

Art doesn’t improve a woman’s life only: it improves the whole world! It is the source of beauty and wonderful values that creates balance against wars, violence and ugliness. We all need art!

* It seems you prefer women in their traditional dress. Why?

I love the clear and impacting identity, the beautiful differences that make humanity look like a colourful carpet. I also strongly respect the ingenious artistic touches that form the identity of communities, and the subtle but huge differences that produce thousands of artworks.

Most art schools are concerned with fashion, home life, life skills and other things. But traditional dresses help us recognise the differences between a village and its neighbour.

This was a fact everywhere in the world. But it is disappearing today. It makes us all similar and repetitive in our ways, even in our dreams and our sterile fantasies.

* How do you use colour?

I like powerful colours. To get the sensitive touch, I use sand in various degrees and sizes to get different textures and the distinctive features I look for.

* Your women seem haunted. If so, why?

My project for my first exhibition came spontaneously from women in different societies. I was looking for real women who do not resemble what is seen in television and other media everywhere.

I was looking for women who are practically the vast majority of the world’s women, like industrious peasant women. They do not know Botox and plastic surgery - but they know life as it is, as we perhaps do not know it.

We are children of the city and modern life. Far from being haunted, the women are real warriors. You can see the challenge shining in the eyes of even the weakest.

* What inspires your art?

Life in its diversity is considered the source of all inspiration. Literature has an impact, in addition to other elements including music, news, images, wheels that spin nonstop, meditation. In fact, everything that surrounds us and makes our world, could be a source of inspiration.

* Do you have art icons you admire? Who are they and why do you like them?

I love the genius of Modigliani, and I also love the artistic flow and strength of Picasso. I am captivated by the diversity of Frida Kahlo’s character. I am also excited about the Pollock method. Contemporary artists fascinate me with the simplicity and power, like Manolo Valdes. Arab artists who enchant me include Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul. I also feel the flow of life and its brightness in front of the works of Syrian artist Thaer Hilal.

* What are the factors that make a portrait stand out?

Maturity of artistic style, outstanding talent and mastery.

* Can you compare the Syrian and Emirati art worlds?

There are so many experienced artists who are able to undertake the task of comparison - I don’t think I am eligible to evaluate and compare! However, I’m a fan of various Emirati artists, including Fatima Lootah, Salma Al Marri and Matar bin Lahej.

* Has your work in television influenced you as an artist?

I think I was fortunate to be in this field, which has kept me updated on various aspects of life, and about technical, social and political developments. I see those waves moving in every direction, affecting different aspects of life. It also creates a special type of imagination in my mind.

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