Project News

Nostalgia, Baggage and Home in the Architecturally Inspired Artwork of Mohamad Hafez

Posted 21 August 2020

The Making Home Away archive is pleased to feature the work of Syrian-American artist Mohamad Hafez, who creates compelling intricate installations inspired by Syrian architecture, culture and memory, in response to the urban destruction wrought by the war in Syria:

Syrians worldwide continue to struggle to comprehend the recent aftermath of the Arab spring and its impact on their home country. What initially began as a Syrian uprising against injustice, tyranny, and marginalization of the country’s populace is now resulting in the largest humanitarian crisis of the 21st Century. As a result of Hafez’s deep personal connection to his homeland and his inability to offer meaningful assistance, this calamity introduces in him a state of homesickness, hopelessness and helplessness. Hafez’s work is the physical embodiment of his deep feeling of immobility and being silenced that he shares with Syrians around the world. The graphic nature of his work aims to depict the atrocities being ignored globally while drawing attention to the urgent need to keep the dialogue alive.

Installation work featured in 'Mohamad Hafez Retrospective' at the Harold J. Miossi Art Gallery

Leveraging his background in architecture, Hafez creates photorealistic three-dimensional scenes that architecturally represent the urban fabric of the Middle East and serve as his backdrops for political and social expression. The work combines his passion for street art and activism and seeks to promote and sustain a global awareness about the ongoing Syrian conflict. The intent of Hafez’s streetscapes is to expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience. 

Close up of Hafez's work featured at Sharjah Islamic Art Festival

The distinctive Middle Eastern character of his work is further highlighted by the subtle incorporation of Arabic calligraphy, Islamic patterns, Qur’anic phrases, and, more recently, multimedia recordings from within the heart of Syria, Damascus. The depiction of Qur’anic phrases in Hafez’s work is at the heart of the broader meaning of his work as it endeavors to kindle hope and raise spirits in the midst of very dark times for the region. 

Installation view of 'UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage' - by Mohamad Hafez and Iraqi-born writer and speaker Ahmed Badr.

Hafez’s latest use of live recordings of prayer calls and Qur’anic recitation recorded in the Great Mosque of Damascus during his last visit to Syria prior to the uprising give the work a fourth dimension. Voices of children playing in the alleyway juxtaposed with the prayer call from nearby mosques presents in each artwork a nostalgic trip through the rich streetscapes of Damascus, encompassing life, memories and hope into a wall mural. 

Detail from the 'Damascene Athan' series, Mohamad Hafez (Brooklyn Museum Permanent Collection)


Mohamad Hafez is a Syrian-American artist and architect, born in Damascus, raised in Saudi Arabia, and educated in the US.  His artwork reflects on the impact of the Syrian war on the country’s cities, and citizens, and has been exhibited extensively internationally.