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ISSUE 5.2

Jihad Abdo & Fadia Affash: The Journey of Two Syrian Artists in Exile

Fadia Affash, Jihad Abdo

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Interviewed by Raghad Al Makhlouf
{{langos=='en'?('02/06/2018' | todate):('02/06/2018' | artodate)}}
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Fighting for freedom and justice in Syria, Jihad Abdo and Fadia Affash had to flee their country and start from scratch in the United States. Jihad, a well-known actor in Syria, began as a pizza delivery man, but was soon recognized for his talents as an actor and landed leading roles in films such as "The Queen of the Desert" and "A Hologram for the King".

Fadia Affash, a painter and activist, recounts the challenges of their journey together, while recognizing the important impact those experiences have had on her work as an artist.

Guests

Fadia Affash
Fadia Affash

Studied at the Adham Ismail Art Institute and Damascus University.

Fadia Affash is a Syrian artist who studied at the Adham Ismail Art Institute in 2002 and graduated from Damascus University with a law degree in 2003. She completed her master’s education in management from Institut National d’Administration in 2007. Since the start of her career, Affash has dedicated her art to battling violence in society, and violence against Syrian women in particular. When the Syrian revolution was born, she naturally found herself siding with the unarmed protesters, condemning the violence displayed by security forces against the people.

She spent some time studying in the United States, and focused on the Arab Spring revolutions, trying to embody the suffering of the Syrian people in her art. Affash has participated in multiple art galleries inside and outside of Syria. In 2003, she exhibited her art at a gallery at the Holy Cross Hall in Damascus, and in 2004, she participated in a gallery at the Anbar Office in the Syrian capital. She joined a 2005 dual-exhibition at Damascus’s Aal Bal Cafe, and another one in Heidelberg, Germany that same year. In 2007, Affash displayed her art at the Arab Cultural Center in Aleppo, and in 2009 she joined the Mada Art House gallery. In 2012, Affash participated in an art gallery in support of Syrian children and the revolution in Los Angeles. 

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Jihad Abdo
Jihad Abdo

Starred in "Queen of the Desert" and "A Hologram for the King".

Jihad Abdo (also known as Jay Abdo) is a Syrian American actor based in Los Angeles. He was born on Oct. 21st 1962 in Damascus. Jay was fascinated with acting from early age. He found himself transported by films as widely ranging as Dr. Zhivago, The Godfather and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. His first experience with performance came when he proved to be a talented concert violinist in primary school, an experience that served to further his passion for the performing arts. He was awarded a scholarship to Cluj-Napoca, Romania to study Civil Engineering, and while there he began acting on the Romanian stage. Even performing in a newly learned language, Jay made a remarkable impression upon the theater critics, and positive reviews followed. His success on the stage caused him to redirect his educational ambitions and he soon returned to Damascus, which is widely considered the Hollywood of the Arab world, to study acting at the prestigious Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts.

In the year after his graduation, Jay was named one of the ten most promising actors in Syria and the Arab world, and he has been cast for starring roles ever since. To date, Jay has appeared in more than forty Syrian films and over 1,000 episodes of television, most often in the leading role. He has taken the stage in over twenty theatrical runs, preforming in English, Spanish, Romanian and Arabic. Jay is a grassroots activist who has long used his fame to assist orphans, children with special needs, and children stricken with cancer. In March 2011 his refusal to publicly support the repressive regime led to personal threats and professional pressure, and he was soon assumed to be sympathetic with the Syrian freedom seekers.

By late 2011, Jay's continued refusal to provide support to the regime left him with no option but to leave his fame behind and flee Syria to the United States where his wife, Fadia Affash, was studying as a Humphrey fellow at the University of Minnesota. Upon his wife completing her coursework, Jay and she moved to Los Angeles, where he began rebuilding his career from scratch. Booking a few supporting roles in the first year, till he met producer Nick Raslan who recognized his talent and experience and graciously introduced him to Werner Herzog, who has cast him to play 'Fattuh', a major role opposite Nicole Kidman in Mr. Herzog's film, "Queen of the Desert."

Twitter: @JayAbdoActor

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