Syrian Artist: Monkith Saaid
On the verge of being executed at the age of 18, Monkith fled his native Iraq to Syria with nothing but a bag his grandmother had given him. He quickly fell in love with Syria, something that would come to define both his career and his life. He studied sculpture in the Fine Arts College in Damascus where he graduated in 1982 and then traveled to Holland, where in 1992 he won the prestigious Dutch prize for art and culture. Despite his success in Europe, he decided to return to Damascus. A prominent theme in Monkith’s work is Sufi philosophy, where the entire world revolves around a single point. As a result, much of his work focuses on a single point of balance, where some characters have only a single foot on the ground, while others are struggling to support another figure or an inanimate object. Monkith described all his works as being part of his unfinished diary. He ascribed his philosophy to periods he had spent in exile in his own life, without any worldly possessions. Monkith Saaid passed away in 2008, before he saw his beloved Syria tear itself apart. The final interview he gave with Arab Art and Culture Journal Al Jadid was very revealing about his life and work.
“The Chair” is one of his last formidable sculptures. One day he told me that he had decided at the last minute to turn the sculpture upside down. Then, as he burst into laughter, he said, “In this sculpture, we see petty tyrants tripping over themselves and losing their power.” This laughter is the undying signature of Monkith Saaid, who passed away, but left behind his fingertips grasping the place.
Much like the Syria he loved so much, Monkith Saaid lived through unbelievable hardships, and his legacy to the world is one of beauty and vibrancy.