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Sundus Abdul Hadi: Challenging Stereotypes Through Images and Sound
Born in the United Arab Emirates to two Iraqi parents, Sundus has, since birth, clung very strongly to her Iraqi roots. Although she was not born in Iraq, for Sundus, Iraq will always be home. It is a part of who she is, and who she always will be. It is a connection that strongly informs her sense of identity and consistently impacts her daily life and consciousness.
Informed by the political situation that has plagued her country for the past two decades, Sundus has found it difficult to turn a blind eye to the hardships and suffering that her people have, and continue to, endure. Struck by a sense of urgency, she finds it impossible to create non-political artwork; work that does not directly address the violence and political instability that has taken her country hostage.
Although she has lived in Montreal for many years, and remains geographically removed from Iraq, it was clear from our interview, that her heart and her mind have, and always will, remain very much connected to her homeland. Emotionally, she remains engaged in the suffering that Iraqis experience as a result of the violence that continues to trouble the region. It was evident, as we sat in her studio in St. Henri, while sipping tea, that she does not grant herself the emotional distance that so many of us Canadians have adopted when considering the armed conflict. Instead, in a selfless act, she has been compelled, as an artist and as an Iraqi, to use her craft to speak out against the negative and often damaging images that she sees and hears in the mainstream media. Subverting these negative stereotypes, Sundus, has reclaimed the meanings of these politically charged illustrations and has chosen, through her art, to bring forward provocative images to the public eye, ones which challenge representations that are commonly viewed in the mainstream. Although her work admittedly comes from “a very dark place”, she transforms the images that she collects from the media, into artworks that celebrate Iraqi history and culture, choosing to exchange guns for instruments in the pieces that she creates.
So, as we sat there, on the eve of her first public exhibition, Sundus expressed her hope, that her portrayal of the despair and helplessness that her people endure, mixed with her hope for a better future for Iraq, will resonate and strike an impactful chord with her viewing public. Through her art, she begs to be heard; hoping to add her voice to the orchestra of sounds and images that compete to capture the imagination, and garner the support of the public at large. Through her work, the viewer gains yet another perspective, one that is not built on stereotypes, but rather, is strongly rooted in the lived experiences of a young Iraqi woman, whose ever compassionate heart has empowered her to capture, through a unique mix of sounds, paint and synthetic surfaces, the true essence of her people.
Interview with Sundus Abdul Hadi
Conducted: Thursday, April 8, 2010
Interviewer: Gracia Dyer Jalea
Videographer: Liz Miller
Written by: Gracia Dyer Jalea
Painting by: Sundus Abdul Hadi