Shadia’s Story: Paying Tribute to a Home Left Behind
I see The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed’s in Syria as a way to give thanks to my country – to show my love for Syria.
Syria is where I spent my childhood, the most beautiful days of my life. It is also the place where I learned to draw and became an artist; it has made me who I am. I hope that, through this story and my artwork, people around the world will learn to love Syria as I much as I do, and to appreciate its history and culture.
I grew up in Tatous in a very open-minded family. My parents taught me the importance of respect for different cultures and religions and encouraged me to pursue my passion for art. I participated in several art competitions and exhibitions both in Syria and in Europe and eventually moved to Damascus where I graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Damascus.
At the start of the Syrian war, I moved to Kuwait with my husband. I cannot visit my country nor my family because of the war, and I miss them both dearly. I have two children, Clara (5) and Tarek (4), who inspired my illustrations of Laila and Ahmed. Like the characters in the book, my children are adventurous and curious about the magic of my home country.
I illustrated for this book wholeheartedly because I want to change the scene of war and destruction in Syria that the world witnesses daily. It took me over a year and a half to complete the paintings which now illustrate the book. It has a been a labor of love; illustrating the beauty of my country has given me joy and motivation. I want the world to know that there is a beautiful side to Syria, that it is a country with a history that started long before it was destroyed and vandalized.
I also want to give children who left Syria because of the war the opportunity to see their beautiful country as it was before. My children were born in Kuwait, and they have never been able to visit their homeland. I tell them stories about Syria every night before they sleep, about its beauty and my fond memories there. We dream of visiting it together someday.
My artwork for this book has helped me show my children the best of Syria. In a way, they have been able to visit Syria through my artwork for this story and by seeing representations of its beautiful places – that means so much to me.
I have put in my heart into this book. It represents my country, which I hope will once again be as lovely and safe as it was during my childhood.