The colours of despair

Artist Ibrahim Gailani (right) with his artwork in New York

Often, the most painful and somber stories of mankind are lost in the decibel of news threads and social media feeds. And that is when art speaks out, louder. Life imitates art and vice-versa.

A gifted artist, through his work, can explicitly convey the deep thoughts and emotions that are linked with every political or social change.

Muscat-based Ibrahim Gailani is one such artist and his interpretation of the Syrian conflict with the piece titled The Refugee beat several hundred submissions from over 50 countries at the 3rd Annual Show Your World Art Competition and came out as one of the winners.

The Refugee won the Jury Award at the competition-cum-exhibition held over two weeks in December 2017, at the Gallery MC, Manhattan, New York. The art event was organised by the Re:Artiste organisation.


Gailani is the first ever artist from Oman and the GCC to win this award. The event celebrated all genres of art and invited artists to interpret the theme of ‘showing your world’.

The Refugee is inspired by the turmoil in Syria where people are fleeing their country and being forced to seek refuge - sometimes illegally - in other lands.

“Art is a reflection of life and as artists our job is to showcase the reality of lives. It is a hard time in Syria now where people are talking of human lives in mere numbers. We are on the verge of losing our sensitivities. I hope that my piece of work will bring that sensitivity back once again,” said Gailani. Besides the award, the artist has won the honour of judging the next edition of art event this December.

The 120cmx130cm acrylic painting has the withering face of a man defeated and disillusioned by the political crisis. The deep lines are accentuated by the surrounded graffiti that talks about his fears, pain, grief, loss of homeland, loss of identity and loss of self respect.

The Refugee is currently on tour in North and South America and will then travel to Vancouver Art Festival before arriving in Oman in June.

Gailani’s was the only submission from the GCC to be shortlisted. The top 25 artists from the art gala won a two-week showcase.

Gailani, shared the stage with artists from Kosovo, Canada, Spain and China who were all present in a unique dialogue of creativity.

The artist said, “It is indeed a huge honour to be able to showcase my work in New York and holding up Oman’s flag. To enter as an Omani entrant into the competition with hundreds of other artists and win was an incredible honour. We as artists only create so our voice and point of view can be heard.”

Gailani said getting the validation of the acclaimed judges at the New York show and of the people to came to see his art was an ‘emotional journey’. “I’m humbled with gratitude.”

This art event is the brain child of curator Natalie Burlurtskaya, who is also the founder of the Re:Artiste organisation in New York.

According to Natalie the aim of the organisation is to help emerging, mid-level and established artists get discovered by curators, buyers and art enthusiasts.

She said, “Through the eyes of the artists we see the world. Through the artist’s vision we are able to view the unseen. Therefore, exposing artists to the world is our peacemaking mission that connects people of different cultures, origins, and legacies.”

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