Artist who escaped from Iraq to Canada using paint and canvas to raise funds for refugees

Vancouver artist and former refugee puts paint on canvas in an effort to raise funds for newcomers to Canada as they make the difficult resettlement transition.

Harem Tahir arrived in Canada in 2017 as a refugee. As he has started to find his feet in the country, the transition has not been easy.

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“I have a lot of issues that I struggle with, like my wife is still here,” he told Global News.

“My family has stayed at home in Iraq, and every night when I sleep I worry about them if something still happens to them there. “

This original Harem Tahir painting is being auctioned off and all proceeds will be donated to the Immigrant Settlement Society of BC

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Tahir understands well the plight of the refugees.

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Originally from Kurdistan in northern Iraq, he has been displaced by war four times, including eight years living in a refugee camp in Iran, and an escape from ISIS in 2014.

He told Global News that he discovered a love of art from an early age – a passion he explored while living in the Iranian camp, when he illustrated the stories his mother told at night about life at home.

After the family returned to Kurdistan in the late 1990s, he received formal training at an art school and has since organized six personal exhibitions and participated in over 30 exhibitions.

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But as a refugee in Canada, he struggled to reconnect with his practice amid the challenges of adjusting to a new country, improving his English and finding time to paint while working, he said. -he declares.

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“I had no hope, to be honest,” he said.

That was until he logged into the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC). The non-profit organization, one of the largest of its kind in Canada, offers a range of services to refugees and immigrants, from settlement to language to employment.

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Tahir said the organization’s support helped him start rebuilding his life as an artist.

He also recognized himself in some of the children he saw there and started volunteering to teach art classes.

“They opened the door for me to discover the art here, the art community, to go to galleries, to introduce me to other artists,” he said.

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This year, he partnered with ISSofBC and Goldbeck Recruiting, a Vancouver-based employment agency to use his art to support the work of the organization.

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Goldbeck commissioned him for an original painting of a scene in Vancouver – the top of Grouse Mountain – which is auctioned off, with all proceeds going to ISSofBC.

In addition to the original auctioned off, prints of the work are also sold.

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“We know that art and culture are important in all of our lives, and we know that behind every refugee statistic there is a story and a journey,” said Jonathan Oldman, CEO of ISSofBC.

“Harem is inspiring because it reminds us that people have endured so much, but at the same time they are thinking about rebuilding their lives, giving back and expressing the full range of their artistic ideas.”

The auctions are open for auction until Sunday midnight.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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