Artist and Activist Mohamad Hafez Delivers Powerful Hall
Mohamad Hafez is a professional architect, born in Damascus and raised in Saudi Arabia. As a student studying in the midwestern U.S. he was unable to return to his home over the winter break, because of the limitations a Syrian passport posed at the time. Homesick, he decided that if he couldn’t return home, he would recreate it. That impetus was the start of Mr. Hafez’s powerful body of work—sculptural art, composed of found objects, paint and scrap metal—that today depicts the destruction and atrocities of the Syrian civil war, while at the same time communicating hope and the very personal stories of refugees from all over the world.
On January 24, Mr. Hafez presented an unforgettable Hall to RL students and faculty that aimed to break down media-driven generalizations about refugees and instead shared the humanity of these individuals—their faces and families, dreams and successes, fears and hopes. He implored the boys in the audience to look beyond labels, to look deeply, and to find what binds us.
Using his architectural skills, Mr. Hafez creates surrealistic streetscapes that communicate a subtle hopefulness through the incorporation of verses from the Holy Quran. The Quranic narratives affirm that, he says, “even in the darkest times, patience is necessary for the blossoming of life and that, eventually, justice will prevail.” In Hall, Mr. Hafez presented several of his installation pieces and introduced the audience to his most recent project titled UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage. The series incorporates actual suitcases that refugees used to immigrate to the United States, as well as audio loops of their stories, in their own words, to immerse viewers into their harrowing and hopeful experiences. After his Hall talk in the Smith Theater, Mr. Hafez spent the morning meeting with students, including those in Mr. Buckley’s Applied Art class and Dr. McCrory’s AP Art History class.
Mr. Hafez’s art has been the subject of high acclaim, as part of exhibits profiled by NPR, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. Mr. Hafez is the recipient of a 2018 Connecticut Arts Hero Award for his extensive and continuous body of work on issues such as the Syrian civil war, the worldwide refugee crisis, and a persistent desire to counter hate speech. He serves as a 2018 Yale University Silliman College Fellow.