Nova Scotia

Syrian-Kurdish refugee's art on display in Dartmouth

Large, colourful portraits by Janso Isso will hang at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning until Feb. 28. The art show is titled Shining the Light.

Janso Isso arrived in Nova Scotia in 2016 with his wife and 2 daughters

Janso Isso stands next to a portrait (right) he painted of Dildar, a Kurdish poet and political activist. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning in Dartmouth, N.S., was packed Sunday afternoon for Janso Isso's art show, Shining the Light.

Just a little more than a year ago, Isso (who used to go by the first name Abdul), his wife and two daughters walked through the arrivals gate at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

"As a newcomer in Canada, I'm so happy. In one year, this is my second gallery and of course it's come out because of support from my groups and my Kurdish community," Isso said through a translator.

'Warmly embraced'

The journey to Canada has been a long one for Isso and his family.

It took the Dartmouth-based private sponsorship group that helped bring them to Canada nearly a year to get them to Nova Scotia.

​Deborah Woolway, spokesperson for Crichton Park Friends of Refugees, said Isso was painting within days after landing in Canada.

Janso Isso says this painting of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is his favourite piece at the art show. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

"I think the family really feels warmly embraced by the Dartmouth community and more broadly in Nova Scotia," she said.

Woolway said Isso's wife, Himo, is in hairdressing school and the two girls are both doing well in school.

"They're really trying to make a go of it," Woolway said. "I think they're going to succeed."

Praise for PM

Among the brightly coloured portraits are a few familiar faces: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who served as prime minister for almost 16 years before retiring in 1984.

The portrait of Justin Trudeau, Isso said, is his favourite piece in the show.

Isso's paintings will be on display at the art gallery until Feb. 28. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

"Because this guy, he's helped a lot of people from Syria," Isso said. "I like this guy."

Isso's work will be on display at the gallery until Feb. 28.

​He said he would like to show off some of his sculpture work at his next show.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.