Secret on the wall

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I want to take you back to 1983 in Al torrah, Jordan. Torrah is a small, conservative and cultural village in northern Jordan, close to the border of Syria. When I say small, I mean 3000 inhabitants. Pretty small. This was my place of birth and also my home until I moved to Sweden because of an arranged marriage. I have nine siblings including myself, and we all shared a small torn down house with a small backyard. We had one olive tree, 30 sheep, two roosters and some chicken. My dad remarried in Iraq when we were young and he would come and visit us once a year. It was harsh growing up with an absent father but my mother was a very, very strong woman.


When I was 15 years old I discovered my love for art and painting. I loved painting ”free” bodies, in their natural state, especially women. The way we were born is nothing shameful. We were extremely poor so buying proper art-materials and canvas was out of question. That did not stop me as I started painting on the house fascade and the kitchen cabinets. The home became my canvas. My mothers circumstances did not allow her to pursue her dream of art, so I guess she lived it through me. She encouraged me on a daily basis, even though I was vandalizing the home with my paint-experiments. My first project was a painting of Adam and Eve, almost naked, in a blooming garden. I covered the genitals only. This painting took a month to finish and I was extremely proud of this painting.


When it was time for my dad to visit, my mother simply covered the wall of Adam and Eve with a big closet. She knew the painting was not very modest and didn’t want him to get angry. I continued painting, and I discovered my source of inspiration – religious stories. This was also easier due to the conservative culture of the village that I lived in. For example, the story of Abraham sacrificing his son, became a painting. The second painting was a man, almost naked, in a praying-position with his hand to the sky. I knew my dad would accept this painting because of the religious context – and I was right. This painting was left uncovered. My third painting was a woman, reading a book by a lake. The scenery is beautiful, filled with green trees and blooming flowers. The ocean has a calming effect. My last painting was on the outside, the fascade. It was girls playing in a field of flowers. This is supposed to portray the feeling of freedom, and I realized that it was exactly what I was missing.

My dads second visit was meant to be exciting but it wasn’t. He discovered my painting of Adam and Eve and he painted the wall white, killing my joy.

Years went by, and it was time for my arranged marriage that took me all the way out to Sweden. I lived with this new, foreign man for 21 years. My (now) ex-husband didn’t allow me to paint for so many years, as he thought I should do something ”real” – sew clothes. I didn’t go back to visit Al Torrah until eight years later, only to discover that all my painting we’re gone and replaced with white wall paint. I was devastated. This time, my autistic brother, took the freedom to cover them up. He simply wanted to freshen up the house without any understanding or empathy for the hard work that I put in. But I couldn’t blame him, he was autistic after all.

After 21 years in a mental prison, I finally broke free and recovered. I have five beautiful, smart and talented kids that helped me discover the beauty of life and resume my dream – art.

A religious man, my dad, didn’t like my vulgar paintings, and my autistic brother did not understand my effort. I was a victim of lack of freedom. It took me a while to understand that freedom is something you have to feel at this very moment, you have to feel it now. It wont come back. And I have found myself. I am free, free to express, free to feel, and I need to reintroduce myself to this world. I do that by revealing my deepest secret, in all of my art – expressing freedom.

Hanan Alrikabi

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