On November 27th Seats2meet completes 10 years of existence, and as it had to be, we are celebrating our joy by sharing it with others. In Seats2meet Utrecht CS it will happen the S2M 10 Jaar Festival where among several workshops, inspiring talks and surprises we will have two art exhibitions. One of them is from Salam Noah, a refugee newly arrived in France that amidst his journey, found an undiscovered talent. This is his story.
Could you tell us your story?
My name is Salam Noah I’m 29 years old and I’m from Baadre, Kurdistan, Iraq. I was a last year student when the ISIS came in our village on 3rd August 2014, I and my family fled into the Shingal Mountian. Eventually, we reached Turkey through a smuggler on February 9th. We wanted to go to Europe via the Bulgarian border because it was safer than by boat to Greece. Many who did it not get there and drowned. But after 6 failed attempts, we decided to cross to the Island lesbos through the sea.
March 13th we went with the boat to the mainland from Greece and they bring us to the Ritsona camp about 50km from Athens. We stayed there until September 20, 2016 together, after that 9 relatives moved through the relocation program to France, the rest followed six months later to Bordeaux. My brother and his family and I with my wife moved 1 month ago to Forbach closer to the rest of the family in France and Germany.
Have you always been an artist?
No, I was a student before, I started to paint a year ago when I was in a refugees camp in Greece. I never had a painting lesson. I paint to express my feelings. To show the world how the life of a refugee is and how difficult it is to fight for a better and safer existence and that everyone knows about our situation. But also to show that we are the same as you. Just people. Meanwhile, I have already made 70 paintings. They can also be viewed via Facebook Salam Noah ART.
What do you get inspired by to create your pieces?
The inspiration is from what I’ve seen and been true since we were driven away from our home, place, and country we lived in. It is something I have to do to. It’s something I had to do to express myself from what I experienced.
How do you find the Netherlands?
Because I had been in Lesbos, I came in contact with Jeanette Koenen who helped as a volunteer there a lot. I asked her to help me to show and sell my paintings. I am living in France. We met again a few months ago in France. We talked about what my plans were and then came up with the idea of organizing an exhibition in Holland.
What is an advice you would give to people who just moved here?
I did not move to Holland but France by relocation, I can advise people who came across Europe to contact with volunteers who help you on the move. They often have a network or know the rules, laws and can help you further if you need help. I am very lucky to met someone like Jeanette Koenen who is self-employed and working a lot with young people and she has a big heart for anyone who really needs help.
And how did you heard about Seats2meet?
Jeanette knows the owner from Seats2meet and when she saw my paintings, she became excited and discussed that. As a result, she and the owner from seats2meet came up with the idea of holding the exhibition at the 10th year anniversary.
Could you give a sneak peek of what you are going to exhibit in the S2M 10 Jaar Festival?
I can show you what it’s like to be a refugee and show an impression of it. Further, how does someone in such bad a situation develop a talent that he did not know that he had it and with the right contacts and by working with others you can reach a lot and increase your world. So I hereby celebrate the 10th anniversary Festival of S2M of being open to others and mixing talents.
In a short sentence describe what you used to be, but you’re not anymore.
I was a student in Iraq. I have worked hard to do study at the university, it cost me a lot of years to get the permission to start. It was my dream and that came out. But by the ISIS that dream has stopped and I had to finish my studies a half year before I got my diploma.
You woke up, looked around and noticed you transformed into an island. Describe yourself. This a really a weird question. I feel like I’ve been on an island since I left my country Iraq and I’ve only spent 6 days on a real island, Lesbos all the time in a refugee camp it felt like an island far from the inhabited world. And still now in France it feels sometimes like sitting on a Land.
So if I had been an island I would allow and cherish anyone who was there. I would make sure my island had fruit and other food to eat and that there was enough water to drink. My island would be a paradise for humanity.