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The artist Haider Ali believes in hard work

– When I came to Sweden, my soul was carrying the dust of life, but the white hands removed this dust.
– There are many messages the artist wants to communicate through the artwork. The most important of these messages is the embodiment of aesthetic values.
– I will participate in an event commemorating the centenary of the Swedish woman's right to vote. I am in the process of preparing a photo album about Elin Wägner's life.
Växjö • Publicerad 21 februari 2020
Foto: Maha Nasser

Växjö opened its doors and embraced many artistic talents who came from many countries and had an effective and tangible role in society. The artist Haider Ali was one of these talents. He came to Växjö in 2008 and held his first art exhibition entitled "Baghdad, the city of war and peace", 3 months after his arrival to Sweden. He participated in many group and individual exhibitions around the world, four of them were held in Sweden. Mosaik newspaper met artist Haider Ali and had this conversation.

How did you start your artistic journey?


– I started my art since I graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Baghdad. I was serious about dealing with art. I participated in many exhibitions, art galleries. I held the first exhibition in 1989 and I was a student at the time. At first, I had a passion for doing something different. I chose the artistic field, and I had to take priorities. Thus, I specialized in art education in the preparation of professional teachers. There were two departments of Educational Sciences and Psychology. And also fine arts, including photography, drawing, sculpture and ceramics. I studied it deeply. I liked all artistic practices, but I liked painting because it is the most spacious world, and because it contains the physical tools, brush, color, wood, or fabric. By using these elements one can express what goes on in the souls and produce artwork. I devoted all my effort on this side. In the same time I was always looking forward to travel.

What were you looking to achieve through travel?

– There was a tendency to freedom. And I had a great passion for discovering the world. I also had no imagination of the other world and whether there were other countries. For example European countries. I only realized the city where I live. This is what was established in my mind with some kind of specific tools, such as radio and television. Everything I could see on TV from other world, I considered it just a work of art and it really does not exist. Here came my love and my aspiration to discover the other world. After that I traveled to Jordan and worked there in the technical field, I worked as a professional for ceramics for six years. Then I returned to Baghdad.

When did you come to Sweden?

– After the war in Iraq, there has been an imbalance in the societal structure in terms of security, and there has been a threat to personal freedom. It is also impossible to have artwork and creativity in the event of war or chaos. Because one will be busy with securing himself and his family economically and safely. So many Iraqi artists immigrated at that time. Some went to Europe, others went to America, Australia and Canada. I traveled to Syria and stayed there for one year with my family. After that my family returned to Iraq. I went to Sweden in a long and arduous journey through many countries. When I arrived to Sweden I was very tired and carrying the dust of the journey, not just the arrival journey but the entire life journey.

Why did you choose Sweden?

– The first reason was for the sake of my family. Because it is not easy to get a family unification right in other countries. So Sweden was the best choice. Another reason is that I was very distracted and very tired, and I needed an environment to help me recover. My soul was carry the dust of life, but white hands removed this dust. The Swedish people helped us to recovering by their tolerance and kindness. Not only me, but many of my country people and people who came from the surrounding countries like Syria. And many countries whose people were displaced by wars. In addition to dreams that were difficult to achieve in my country. I had a dream to create an art-loving generation through education and the arts and to participate in the community movement. But wars overwhelmed us. Because the environment of war is not an environment incubated for art and creativity.

How was your start in Sweden?

– The beginnings are difficult anywhere, even if we go back to our countries and want to start again, the start will be difficult also. I started with the Swedish language, which I loved and wanted to be able to. I worked hard to learn the language, so I used to teach myself 3 words every day, memorize them, write them and repeat them all the time. Because I studied pedagogy and know very well that one of the fundamental principles of children's learning is repetition. It is an important teaching tool. It was the technique that I used. Another thing is that the street language does not resemble the academic language, the language of journalism, or the language of politics. I was aware of this, and therefore I did not focus on the language of the street or the language of daily dealing, despite my need of it. I focused on learning the academic language through reading literature in particular. Because academic language gives one freedom of expression.

Have you achieved your artistic expectations today in Sweden?


– Of course, I can say that I was very lucky when I came to Sweden. I was able to hold my first exhibition in Sweden three months after I arrived. Coincidence is also a role-playing game, where I met Swedish artist Lisbeth Sandvall, a professional artist. She welcomed me in her operator during the summer period and helped me to practice my hobby. Then she introduced me for a group of Italian palace artists, who helped me find a place in the palace's artists section. I worked hard at the time and was drawing daily. Then I got suggestion from Rose marie Bäck activities coordinator in Italian palace , to hold my own exhibition. I thought a lot about it, because the period was too short. But I had a will. So I accepted the offer and decided to hold the exhibition. I chose the exhibition message to be about my journey and my city that I left behind me which called home of peace. It became a place of war. I tried to embody the concept of war and peace on a safe city, a city of peace. I had no picture ready. But I worked hard and made everything with my hand. I made around 24-25 painting in a month and a half. I used to work daily from 8 in the morning until six in the evening. And I had a great passion for drawing and holding the exhibition. I succeeded in organizing the exhibition, and the event got media attention by Smålandsposten newspaper at that time.

How many exhibitions have you held since the beginning of your practice of artwork?

– There are many group exhibitions. As for the personal exhibitions, I held about five or six exhibitions, four of them were in Sweden. I also held several exhibitions in the Arab countries collectively. And now I plan to hold an exhibition in Amman Jordan.

What message do you want to communicate through your artwork?

– There are many messages the artist wants to communicate through the artwork. The most important of these messages is the embodiment of aesthetic values. Aesthetic value is the need of every person.

What do you do today?

– Today I work in the Växjö municipality in the Adult Education Directorate as a community facilitator. I studied this major in 2012. Currently, I have worked as a social worker in the municipality of Växjö since 2012. I also worked as an assistant technical teacher in the cathedral school from 2010 to 2011.

Tell us about your participation in commemorating the centenary of the Swedish woman’s right to vote?

– Soon we are going to celebrate the centenary of the Swedish woman’s right to vote, and therefore there will be a cultural week through which lectures, cultural seminars and concerts will be presented. We, as artists in the Italian Cultural Palace, will also have participation. In the city of Växjö. I will have two participations. I will present a 6-minute video, that will show pictures and explaining Elin Wägner's Vision. The woman who fought for the Swedish woman to obtain her right to vote. The music will accompany the show. The video starts with a black page that means that there is no hope and there is no right for women to vote, along with some of the words Elin Wägner says to politicians, her plea to them in Parliament and their impression. And the path of her struggle to collect the signatures. Her signature was in white on the black page. This will be the first light in the film, up to 400,000 names and signatures. The film ends with a white page and the wish of Elin Wägner is fulfilled. This blackness ends with the enactment of a law by the Swedish Parliament on the right of women to vote.

– I will also have another participation, which is a photo album about Elin Wägner's life. Through my research I collected more than 100 photos and I want to make an album for Elin Wägner. Because I am really a big fan of her will, and she was Inspirational for many women. This album will be like an album that prepared by her.


There are many arrivals to Sweden who have artistic aspirations. through your experience, what do you want to say to them?

– If you offer authentic art, you will find the true echo, but you must take the right paths to do so, and strive hard. More important thing is creating a network of relationships in the environment which you are interested. Be active, create a suitable environment. Focus on seizing opportunities. Plan activities that you can participate in. To emphasize artistic self, there must be an artistic tendency to achieve this self. There are artists but they work for profit and can produce many pieces. But whoever works towards achieving the artistic self is satisfied with only one artistic piece and gives it a great effort, to achieve itself through this piece.

Maha Nasser
Så här jobbar Mosaik Vxonews med journalistik. Uppgifter som publiceras ska vara korrekta och relevanta. Vi strävar efter förstahandskällor och att vara på plats där det händer. Trovärdighet och opartiskhet är centrala värden för vår nyhetsjournalistik.