Exhibitionists

These tiny porcelain figures capture the horror of war — and the strength of the Syrian people

Montreal-based artist Cham Chahda talks about her sculptural practice and the stories of terror and resilience from war-torn Syria that her work tells.

"I wanted people to somehow witness what's happening there"

These tiny porcelain figures capture the horror of war — and the strength of the Syrian people

5 years ago
Duration 4:04
"I wanted people to somehow witness what's happening there." - Cham Chahda on the vulnerable figures that she sculpts from clay

It's been a long time since Montreal-based artist Cham Chahda has lived in Syria, but as she confides, "It's awful to live war from a distance. It's like living a nightmare — you wake up worried, you go to sleep worried because I still have family there."

That anxiety is a driving force behind Chahda's sculptural practice, which is made up of tiny porcelain figures that seem broken (often literally), tortured and wracked with pain and grief. Chahda began making these figures as a way to make war in Syria visceral to her viewers: "What's a better way to express your sadness and devastation when your country is torn with war but to dedicate your artwork to what's going on now?"

In this video by filmmaker Oussayma Canbarieh, Chahda also opens up about her most recent work, intended to show the resiliency and strength of Syrians. As Chahda stresses, "However long the war is going to last, it's going to end at some point. Syrian people will stand on their feet once again."

Filmmaker Oussayma Canbarieh is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian journalist. She was born in Damascus and has been living in Montreal since childhood. Oussayma has produced multiple radio and TV reports as well as human-interest documentaries. You can see her other work for CBC Arts here.

Watch Exhibitionists Sundays at 4:30pm (5 NT) on CBC.

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