"My name is Alaa Khayat. I am Syrian and graduated from Damascus University, Faculty of Architecture, in 2012. My graduation year was very difficult: I had to study with the constant sound of shelling and concentrating was difficult, but I was determined to pass my exams.
After my graduation I stayed in Syria for another three years, but I was unemployed and had nothing to do. I could only wait for my visa to Erbil to arrive, so I could join my fiancé. Luckily, I started looking for a job in Erbil before I even left Syria, so when I eventually made it there I was able to start working straight away.
Beginnings were very hard. I had left everything behind in Syria: my family, my lifestyle, my friends and my childhood memories. Despite the war, Syria was still home to me. Nonetheless, I was a newlywed and I wanted to form a family with my husband and pursue a professional career. I started working as an architect and also learned graphic design. I now work as a graphic designer in a company, and as a freelance architect.
My double job, however, doesn't prevent me from painting. I brought my paintings with me from Syria and started painting again as soon as I settled down. Painting allows me to express my feelings and show how the war has affected me. Through my use of colors and movement, I share my feelings and try to pass on a message. With all what is happening in Syria, Kurdistan and Iraq, I want to tell people that colors give us life; although there are black backgrounds in my paintings, there is always light as well, there is always contrast. I also like drawing women, because they embody strength, and peacocks and horses because they always keep going and reflect beauty and longing for life.
I want to tell people that even when life feels dark, it goes on. Even in war-torn countries, people can live, love, make a family and keep going. I am full of hope and want to share this optimism with people.
My paintings are for sale, whether during exhibitions or privately. I would like people who buy my paintings to feel this message of hope, whatever their hardship in life.
I would like to thank the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for helping make my dreams come true. Exhibiting my paintings was one of my childhood dreams and I have now fulfilled it thanks to its friendly, solidary and helpful people."