Syrian Artist Illustrates Major Conflict in a Miniature Way

Woman with headphones looking at an old suitcase from "UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage" installation
Woman with headphones looking at an old suitcase from "UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage" installation
Part of “UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage” installation created by Syrian-born artist and architect Mohamad Hafez – Photo from Mohamad Hafez’s official website

Born in Syria and raised in Saudi Arabia, artist and architect Mohamad Hafez has a strong tie to the Middle East and a desire to show the rest of the world the horrors of the political struggle in many Middle Eastern countries.

Saddened that he could not visit his old home, Hafez decided to return to it in his own way. “I had this pile of what people might consider garbage, and I started toying around with it. Nine hours passed by, I looked at the clock, and it was about three in the morning when I just finished modeling a little fa├žade from old Damascus. That caused a little bulb to turn on in my brain. It taught me that if you can’t go home, maybe you could recreate home.”

The Connecticut-based artist uses scrap metal, found objects, and paint to create incredibly detailed cross-sections of Middle Eastern streets and homes. These dioramas are breathtaking in their lifelike detail and heartbreaking in the story they tell.

Using old suitcases and picture frames as his canvas, Mohamad Hafez depicts what refugees leave behind and what those who cannot leave must endure. A closer look at the dioramas reveals rusty pipes, crumbled streets, and the shattered contents of homes and lives.

Part of "Framed Nostalgia 1" installation created by Syrian-born artist and architect Mohamad Hafez
Part of “Framed Nostalgia 1” installation created by Syrian-born artist and architect Mohamad Hafez – Photo from Mohamad Hafez’s official website

Hafez hopes that his miniature streetscapes will shine a light on the conflict in the Middle East and inspire people to take action. Like many, he feels powerless to exact real change but is doing his part in raising awareness by “exposing the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience.”

He incorporates Islamic patterns, Arabic calligraphy, and even multimedia recordings from Damascus and other cities into his art. With each diorama he creates, Hafez reflects the true spirit and grit of the Middle Eastern people and the home he left behind long ago.