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About the Performance

This performance was live-streamed from the Howard Theatre, Downing College, on 15 March 2021 – the tenth anniversary of the Syrian uprising.

The performance begins with Kourbaj drawing fragments of Arabic words and eye idols on a large surface in layers, repeating and obscuring them. The words are inspired by the teenage graffiti that sparked the Syrian uprising in March 2011, and the eye idols are based on three Syrian eye idols from The Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection.

The final drawing is then be burnt, with the ash being placed in a glass box as a memorial to victims of the ongoing crisis.

Find out more about the performance here.

About Issam Kourbaj

Issam Kourbaj was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and at Wimbledon School of Art (London). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Cambridge, becoming an Artist in Residence, a Bye-Fellow (2007-2011) and a Lecturer in Art, at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge.

Since 2011, Kourbaj has been dedicated to raising awareness and funds for projects and aid in Syria through several exhibitions, installations and performances in the UK and abroad.

He is currently preparing a large-scale art installation with and in response to objects from the collection of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam that inspire him, opening in April 2021. Kettle’s Yard and The Heong Gallery (University of Cambridge) are collaborating with the artist on a major two-venue exhibition of the artist’s work for 2023. The three eye idols from the collections of The Fitzwilliam Museum can be seen in a display alongside 366 eye idols created by Issam Kourbaj from Aleppo Soap when the Museum reopens in May: The Fitzwilliam Museum – Don’t Wash Your Hands: Neither Light Agrees To Enter The Eyes Nor Air The Lungs, 2020