Art in Focus – May 2021
Tears of Gold: Portrait of a Yazidi woman
Hannah Rose Thomas, 2014
During the Syrian civil war, Isis abducted and enslaved more than 6,000 Yazidi women and children. Many of those who escaped ended up at the Jinda Centre, a rehabilitation facility in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, where they began the long, slow process of recovery. In 2014, two women – Dr Sarah Whittaker-Howe, a clinical psychologist, and artist Hannah Rose Thomas – set up an imaginative art project aimed at helping these Yazidi women to rebuild their dignity. They encouraged the women to paint self-portraits, using art as a tool for advocacy and bringing their stories into places of influence in the west. Hannah taught the women how to paint, while Sarah recorded their individual stories – an important element in post-torture or sexual abuse recovery. As part of the process, the Yazidi women also requested that Hannah paint their portraits. The gold-leaf background Hannah used is deliberately reminiscent of icon painting. She chose this in order to convey the inherent value and dignity of these women despite all they have suffered, and also to reflect the fact that many of the women chose to paint themselves shedding tears of gold.
Hannah’s exhibition of works from three portrait projects can be seen at bit.ly/GoldTears
Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney
This article was published in the May 2021 edition of Reform