Salam Noh (also written Noah) is one of our refugee artists in the upcoming “Lives in Limbo: Refugees at the Gates of Europe” show.
His family was recently profiled on PRI’s “The World” program, describing their escape from Iraq and resettlement in France.
Salam Noh’s work is based partially on his experiences in refugee camps and all his work being shown at Beacon Gallery comes with an original poem in addition to the painted piece.
Born in War
Little child opening his eyes for the first time ,The first thing he saw was his mothers tears…
Sound of people screams , under bombing sound, was the first
thing he hears…
Little child feeling scared even In his mother arm cuz he
grow up in fears…
As he grows up… things never get fine and war never stops over years…
Carrying the little child over hands
Walking away from home trying to escape from the war lands…
Like a a bird his wings been broken and try to run until that time he could fly again over all the borders…
But when his wings healed again…
He couldn’t come back to home where the war yet didn’t stopped…
Neither he could find a land where he can build his nest again…
While Salam’s personal story itself isn’t told in the PRI interview, he has graciously shared his story in his own words:
“My name is Salam. I am from Iraq, and I am 28 years old. I was living in Baadre village in Kurdistan, with my family of 14 members. We were living in difficult material conditions. We were threatened because we are Yazidi, which is an ethnic minority. Despite all of this, we challenged life’s difficulties and started going to school to get proper education. We were high achievers in all levels. That is when I started my studying journey.
I studied six years, and completed my primary school. But then, I had to stop studying because we couldn’t afford the fees, and because, as I have a very big family, I needed to earn money to support them. I started working in order to give my brothers and sisters the opportunity to finish their studies.
[After many years of work and sacrifice for my family I was able to start my university education. In my final year,] I only had two more months of studying to graduate. But one day, when I came back from university, I heard my family talking about the fact that we had to leave Iraq and go to a safer country. When I heard this I was in a shock and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew if we left, I would not graduate and make my dream come true. But I had no choice, I had to go with them.
The decision was made to leave, but first, we had to find a way to collect the money necessary to make the journey. Because we are a big family, we needed a lot of money to pay the smugglers. So we decided to sell our house to a smuggler who would promise to take us to a safe country in Europe. Our house, the house we had built with our own hands, and we had worked on it for years, day and night. We had dreamt of this house for a long time. It was the only thing we had, and now we had to sell it.
We also had some goods and furniture in our house which we sold too, because we needed money for the journey. Because we were under the pressure to leave as quickly as possible, we had no time to bargain properly and sold our goods at a very cheap price.
Then, we started to prepare ourselves for the long journey ahead. I went to my University for the last time, to say goodbye to my friends. I told my friends that I was sorry to leave, but I had no choice. I didn’t want to leave but I had to. There were tears in my eyes when I left the university, because I was about to give up on my dream.
On the 9th of February 2016 we traveled to Turkey. We stayed in Turkey for about one month, trying to cross the Bulgarian border but we couldn’t, after trying six times. The family was suffering and tired, and we decided to find another way; to try crossing the sea by boat to Greece. We spent one month trying to cross, during which we suffered physically and mentally. After trying three times, we finally made it and we reached Lesvos Island on the 6th of March 2016. We stayed in Mytilene for six days, and then we were taken to Ritsona Refugee Camp on the 13th of March 2016.
My father and mother, with seven of my brothers and sisters were relocated to France on the 20th of September 2016. But I’m married now, and here with my wife. One of my brothers is also married with a son, and both our families are considered independent from my parents, and so we were not relocated with them. So five of us after 6 months were also relocated to France, and now we are in Bordeaux.”
[Salam took up painting while he was living in Greece and waiting for his family’s asylum case to be processed]
“I just started [not too long] ago, without taking classes or anything just on my own. I wanted to paint to deliver a message through my paintings, to tell everyone what it is like to live a refugee life, how we feel, and how hard it is to fight for a better and safer life. I want everyone to know about our situation”.
Salam also plays three instruments; Saz, Oud, and Guitar, and plays music everyday, as a way to express his feelings and frustrations. He compares his painting to playing music:
“It’s just a way for us to express ourselves, to have our voices heard, and to show that we refugees, paint, play music, we are just like you, in the end, we are all just human beings.”
Salam has painted over 70 paintings, and he had exhibition in Switzerland, and is part of the upcoming “Lives in Limbo: Refugees at the Gates of Europe.”
If you would like to learn more about the Yazidi religion, click here.
NB: As a refugee artist, Salam will receive 100% of the profits for any of his work sold through Beacon Gallery.