'Carving Time' exhibition showcases talent of Syrian refugee artist
Tarek Mohamed Hamden in his studio in Za'atari Camp
© Lilly Carlisle
A pop-up exhibition of miniature carvings by an artist who lives in a refugee camp in Jordan has opened in London’s jewellery quarter.
Tarek Mohamed Hamden has created intricate carvings from everyday objects in Za’atari Camp, his home for the last seven years. The pieces take up to six weeks to complete and each one reflects an aspect of camp life. Birds, chains and figures in despair are all represented.
“I dreamed of sculpture and drawing during my childhood,” said Hamden, a former construction worker from Daraa in Syria. “This craft is a way to express my inner world and to pass the time. I consider myself an amateur and try my best to be an artist the world notices.”
Hamden’s talent was spotted by social artist and designer Professor Helen Storey MBE in her role as Za’atari camp’s Artist in Residence, a role supported by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion.
“Tarek’s work is important because it is symbolic of what it means to be him," said Professor Storey. "He has developed a language through his work that speaks to the world beyond the camp."
Together with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Storey has developed arts and cultural livelihood projects that provide skills and accredited training to refugees, helping them find work or set up businesses. "Many talented refugees are waiting for a chance to show their work to the world," said UNHCR's camp manager in Za'atari, Irene Omondi.
As one of the project's participants, Hamden collaborated with Storey for a year to produce ‘Carving Time', the exhibition at the House of Hatton. The collection includes fine chain earrings carved from pencil lead and a broom handle depicting stages of Hamden’s life, from his birth to his experience as a refugee in Za’atari. All of the pieces are for sale in Hatton Garden until December 20th.
He has also collaborated with London-based jeweller Bleue Burnham on a ring made from recycled gold and silver, featuring two interlinking hands with cuff details. The proceeds from sales will directly benefit Hamden and his family, and enable him to train other refugees in sculpture and jewellery making.