Citizens? An art exhibit

doorway revealing art exhibit gallery

Citizens is an exhibition by Belinda Loftus and Manar Al-Shouha, a Syrian artist currently seeking asylum in Ireland. This summer, Manar helped art students from Clongowes paint a Laudato Si mural at the IJI offices and it was a pleasure to get to know her as she led the art project which has forever changed our outdoor space in Gardiner Street.

This autumn I am delighted to share her latest exhibit which explores the heartache of war and uncertainty, of identity and a sense of home and belonging. Belinda and Manar’s artwork describe the reality of when identities are in conflict and people are caught up in warfare and migration.

Damascus to Dublin is part of the joint exhibition and Manar, a visual artist, reflects on aspects of place, security and citizenship. The exhibit takes viewers on a journey from scenes of fear and distress to feelings of hope and emotional insight into Dublin from an outsider perspective.

Damascus is presented in large-scale oil and acrylic paintings of Syrians, of  women and men travelling on buses, huddled, their eyes fearful, lost or full of worry. It is an intimate experience which has onlookers sense this distress as ordinary lives are torn apart by civil war. Viewers will notice the change in tone as they move around on Manar’s journey revealing insight into her experiences of arriving to a new place and navigating Dublin and its people.

exhibit showcasing artworkIn her words:

“I was 16 years old when the war in Syria broke out, and it has dominated my life ever since. On account of my lack of freedom in expressing myself, and because the media doesn’t always show the more interesting angles in the news, I decided to reveal my nation’s suffering in my distinctive way through art.

My paintings reflect the realities and difficulties I and others feel when caught up in conflict and forced migration. It is important to me that my paintings communicate that what happened wasn’t every Syrian’s fault. Europe is now focused on Ukraine, but we need to remember that the effects of the war in Syria continue with many young people fleeing Syria because they have no or little freedom of choice”


Manar’s art is so full of emotion and her skill in capturing onlookers is profound – it is difficult to look away once meeting the gaze of the people captured within the canvas.

I couldn’t recommend the exhibit enough and joined by curious artwork of Loftus pondering themes of home, identity and the echoes of history the exhibit takes you on a journey of perspectives and insight to the experiences of others.


The Citizens? exhibition runs until 23rd October 2022.

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