Your Women, with Tarek Butayhi

Tarek is one of the first Syrian artists I happened upon in Beirut, to which we had both been exiled as a result of the war in Syria. His work depicted nude women and though I was more in favour of revolutionary art at the time I loved them. Perhaps I loved their revolutionary nature despite not being able at the time to identify and articulate it, as he clearly could.

I wrote the following poem for him Arabic. The translation follows.

من ريم الى طارق

أين نساؤك يا طارق؟
العاريات، الضعيفات، الشجاعات، المغريات، اللواتي من رسوماتك تتعلّق على جدراني!
هل أخذتهنّ معك إلى دمشق؟
إلى هناك حيث قلبي يعيش وجسدي لا يجرؤ أن يصلها؟
كم يكنّ محظوظات إذا استمتعنَ بنشوة التنفس على جبل قاسيون، التّنزه في حديقة تشرين، والشرب في نادي مرمر.
أتمنى أن يكنّ بأمان… وأنّك لا تزال تنشئهنّ بحبٍّ، بشغفٍ، باشتهاءٍ.

من طارق الى ريم

أصبحن أمهات ولديهن هموم وأطفال. قد تأثرن بي ، ربما أنا متأثر بهن.


Reem to Tarek:

Where are your women Tarek?
The nude, vulnerable, brave, sexy women of your drawings that hang on my walls.
Did you take them with you back to Damascus, to where my heart remains but my body dare not enter?
How lucky they would be to enjoy the ecstasy of a breath over mount Qasyoun, a walk through Tishreen park, a drink at the bar of Marmar.
I hope they are safe, and that you continue to create them with love, with passion, in rapture.

Tarek to Reem:

“My women have become mothers with worries and children. Perhaps I influenced them; perhaps they influenced me.”

Creative Conversations: An Introduction
If you’d like to engage in an exchange with me, contact me.

Maya, only seven years old when we first met Tarek, attempted to sketch one of his paintings on a piece of board she found in the gallery during an exhibition of his work. She added a stool under the bottom of one of the women. Tarek was delighted. “You thought it an unnatural pose for her?!” he asked my shy child, and then only weeks later gifted her a set of crayons and paper to help begin her journey as an artist.
I will not lie, his generosity towards my child is certainly one of the reasons I love Tarek, but his work, his women, remain the primary draw.