The Identity team decided to pay the graduation exhibition of the Faculty of Fine Arts 2017 class – located nearby our office in Zamalek – a visit. We have to say we were extremely impressed by the students’ talents and the amount of effort and inspiration they’ve all put into their paintings. However, one artist managed to get us startled by not only her artistic skills but rather the concept that got us drowning in our thoughts and in love with the message the paintings screamed! The artist is a Syrian girl called ‘Diala Jamal El Din’ who has been living in Egypt for a few years now. She spoke to Identity about her project ‘wa tastamer el hayah’, which features three black and white self portraits of Diala doing yoga poses amidst the destruction caused by the war in Homs, Syria.

1. How did fellow students treat you as a Syrian girl living here in Egypt ?

All the students were very friendly and always asking me about the current situation in Syria. The administration was also very supportive and gave us easy options to install our tuition fees. I can say it couldn’t have been better!

2. Why did you decide to include your home country in your graduation project?

I always wanted to demonstrate the tragedy I’ve lived through during my final sad years in Syria. I wanted people to see what’s happening there from the destruction of our homes to the death of our close ones through a brush and canvas. I wanted people to know that Syria used to be and still is one the of best countries in the world. I wanted to show how destructive the war can be to any beauty out there!

3. How did yoga affect your life in reality?

Yoga has been a mean of channeling all the misery to self-peace and independence. It made me become a stronger person who is in control of her life regardless of the harsh surroundings illustrated in the paintings.

4. What is your project briefly about?

The project is about hope! I wanted to show how you can turn something so negative into the quite opposite. I’ve been living in the dark shadows of war before I came all the way to Egypt where I fought to come back to life. I then traveled to Nepal on a Yoga course where I learnt more about being internally strong and studied concepts like patience and perseverance.

5. How long did it take to finish the project?

It took me three weeks to get it all done with an average of one week per painting.

6. How did you manage to draw yourself, was that a challenge?

Not that much to be honest, I’ve always been a fan of portraits and practiced a bunch of times. For the project, I started by taking a photo of myself in the yoga position I painted and took it step by step with a big eye for details. The fact that I decided to go with black and white made it more challenging, because it illustrates all the details rather then being in color.

7. How did you feel when people reacted positively to the project?

I was extremely happy; I have to admit it gave me a self-confidence boost to have to share something so personal and find people relating to it and supporting my thoughts. It gave me a push to trust my instincts as an artist, way forward no doubt!

When we asked Diala about her future plans, she seemed to have plenty of exciting ideas and multiple directions in mind. We are asking you all to remember the name which we predict will leave a mark in the art world!