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Spectrum » Arts

Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 1:23 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 1:38 AM (IST)

Little Picasso, big deeds

Having fled Afghanistan, Farhad Nouri has been living in a refugee camp for the past eight months. Drawing not only comforts him, but has also given him an opportunity to save a little boy’s life
Little Picasso, big deeds
Child prodigy: Farhad learnt English in just a year. He began drawing at the age of six after watching his father create Arabesque art in Afghanistan.

Emily Goddard

A 10-year-old refugee, who has attracted global attention and the nickname of “the little Picasso” for his artistic talent, had his first exhibition — and donated the money raised at the event to a sick Serbian boy.

Farhad Nouri has been living in a refugee camp with his parents and two younger brothers in Belgrade’s Krnjaca neighbourhood for the past eight months. The family was forced to flee conflict and poverty in their home country of Afghanistan two years ago, travelling through Greece and Turkey before arriving in Serbia. They hope to eventually start a peaceful new life somewhere in Western Europe.

Farhad describes childhood in his temporary home as “very difficult” but says he tries to use art as a release from the suffering because when he draws he can think of nothing else. “Only people here could really understand [how life is]. It’s so bad for me,” he said. “If you spent one week in this camp you would be crazy but I feel very good when I’m drawing. I feel better and I don’t think about how it was in Afghanistan. When I’m drawing I’m relaxed.”

Picasso, his hero

The spirited 10-year-old, who learned to speak English in just a year, began drawing at six years of age after growing up watching his father create Arabesque art in Afghanistan. He discovered he had a flair for drawing and has since sold artwork in Greece and Serbia. Farhad continues to hone his technique and spends his days sketching the people who inspire him, including Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Angela Merkel, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso — his hero.

“When I started to paint at six years of age, I could not draw like I do now,” he said. “Now the favourite thing I like to paint is faces and portraits. I feel very good when I draw these people. Especially Picasso because he is my favourite artist.”

For Farhad, the exhibition is more than just a means of sharing his photographs, drawings and paintings with the world. He wants to use it to change the way people think and that, he says, is why choosing the name of the show was so important to him. He eventually decided to call it “We Need Kindness — The Dream of a Ten-Year-Old”.

He said: “I’m very happy. When I found out I was having an exhibition, I didn’t know what to do [because of the excitement]. I spent all day thinking about what the name of it should be. I was talking to my father about being a refugee. He told me how difficult he finds it and I thought, ‘Do you know what we need? We need kindness’. So I remembered that name.”

Farhad wanted to use the art show to make a difference to the life of a seven-year-old Serbian boy, whose family is fundraising to help pay for lifesaving treatment at a specialist clinic in Paris. When he heard about his story he knew he had to do something to help.

“I don’t want children in the world to be afraid of anything,” he said. “Because of that, I decided I won’t sell my paintings for lots of money. Instead, I will put a box out and anyone who wants to donate can give for the sick boy. We need that kindness. I want to help him and to show other people how they can help him and show their kindness. I can understand people and I think we all need kindness.”

Sian Pilkington, a field representative at Help Refugees, one of the organisers, said: “Farhad is an intelligent boy with extraordinary talent. We are very happy to celebrate his artwork. It’s a fantastic opportunity to reflect on a positive story rather than the negative stories of the refugee crisis that are in the media. We hope that Farhad is given all the opportunities that a 10-year-old deserves to achieve his dreams in the future.”

— The Independent

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