The paintings on display at the VISAC Gallery in Trail have been through a lot — though not as much as the artists who created them.
Father and son Saad and Amr Zwayne are Syrian refugees living in Turkey, but the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR) have put in a sponsorship application to bring them here, so they can be reunited with their daughter and sister Rahaf.
Rahaf Zwayne arrived in the West Kootenay on May 15, 2016, and is studying Resort and Hotel Management at Selkirk College in Nelson. She was sponsored privately by Melva and Ian Scott from Fruitvale.
“I met them by coincidence in Istanbul and they came to the workplace where I used to work and we had a nice chat and they were really generous,” explained Rahaf.
The Scotts stayed in touch with Rahaf and eventually they arranged to bring her to Canada.
Rahaf said she had been planning to go to Europe, but her passage would have been illegal and it wouldn’t have been safe.
“So later on Ian and Melva they told me, ‘Our government has been changed and we might have the opportunity to get you here by private sponsorship with [help from] the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees group in Rossland and they are willing to help you in the processing and all these things.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it,’” says Rahaf.
It only took five months before she was able to come to Canada, but she had to say goodbye to her father and brother, who are still living in Istanbul.
Art Surviving, the show that launched Friday night, features work from both Saad and Amr, and money from the sales of the paintings will help the two men survive while they remain in Istanbul, where they are ineligible for employment, and hopefully when they arrive in Canada.
But getting the paintings to Canada for the show wasn’t as easy as it might seem, as some of them had been left behind in Damascus when the family fled.
“These paintings that you see, they have been through a really long journey to get here,” said Rahaf.
She said that one of her friends endangered his life to get the paintings from Damascus to Turkey, and he wasn’t the only friend to help get the paintings out of Syria so they could make their way to Canada.
“I never thought they would be together and set up that perfectly and beautifully in that elegant way,” said Rahaf.
She was very grateful to the VISAC Gallery for setting up the exhibition.
Kristen Renn, VISAC’s artist director and curator, welcomed everyone to the show. She also explained that the VISAC will be waving its fees on the sale of the paintings to help support the Zwaynes.
“A hundred per cent of the proceeds are going to the family,” she said.
A little later in the evening, Renn was able to connect with Saad and Amr on Skype.
The two had stayed up all night — it was around 5 a.m. in Istanbul — to have the chance to see the exhibition of their work, talk to the people attending and talk to Rahaf.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the connection was lost, but Kootenay residents can still connect with the Zwaynes work at VISAC until Dec. 15.
And soon, Rahaf hopes, in person.