Nada Odeh is a Syrian artist, activist, humanitarian and modern-day poet. She was born and raised in Damascus and lived in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, before coming to the U.S. in 2013 due to Syrian conflict and revolution. Nada is pursuing her M.A. in Museum Studies at Syracuse University, and received her B.F.A. from Damascus University.
Odeh established an art education program for children, ‘Nada’s Picassos,’ in Damascus, and held workshops in Dubai and Michigan. Her artwork is influenced by Arabic miniatures, Middle Eastern colors and details of her heritage, and her preferred medium is acrylic on canvas. The key focus her artwork is Syrian refugees in camps and Syrian people. Her artwork has been displayed in Damascus, Dubai, New York City, Detroit, Toledo, Tiffin and Washington D.C.
Odeh was chosen as one of fifteen Syrian women to receive a scholarship from Jusoor Syrian Organization that focuses on helping Syrian youth realize their potential through programs in the fields of education, career development, and global community engagement.
I reflect Middle Eastern women in my art. One of my pieces, Peace, Religion, is a reflection of women who are affected by war, escaping to refugee camps. It is not religion that defines their struggle, but the fact that females are not equipped enough to survive conflict, war, and violence. Women in the Middle East are not raised to be strong enough to face violence they encounter in refugee camps. As in any case, women and children remain the most vulnerable in war and turmoil. Many Syrian women I encountered that were in refugee camps have faced violence in different ways. This includes either by being forced to get married in a young age or being sexually abused. In my paintings, my figures are the loud voice of Syrian women and girls… the ones who remain voiceless.
According to UNICEF, intimate partner violence, threat of sexual violence, early marriage and survival sex are identified by adult women and adolescent girls as the main forms of violence currently experienced by women and girls in refugee camps.
In I Am A Princess, the subject is a princess who puts a tiara on her head and starts to dance, trying to live her childhood and dreaming to become a princess, although she lives in a refugee camp. Another piece, Bedtime Story is a visual depiction of a mother who is trying to let her kids create an atmosphere of home in a refugee camp. My paintings are just a window that show the plight of women and children in conflict zones. Widows who lost their husbands in war suffer to live a proper life while raising their kids in a refugee camp. Education and literacy have been stripped from an entire generation.
Violence to me might not be physical. It can be verbal, or even an attitude that reflects how society treats a vulnerable woman in war. Education might be the only solution to strengthen women affected by war.