Artist Spotlight: Nihad Al Turk

Updated: May 7, 2020

by Elana Wong

Nihad pictured with some of his pieces. Image Credit: Colin Hattersley for BBC Scotland

Syrian artist Nihad Al Turk, our guest artist for ‘Through the Eyes of Scotland’s Refugees’, has been in Scotland for nearly 3 years. Born in Aleppo, Nihad is Syrian Kurd refugee himself who arrived in Edinburgh in 2015, leaving Syria first to Lebanon before coming here with his wife after he was arrested a number of times for opposing Assad’s regime. A self-taught artist, he has exhibited in Beirut, Damascus, New York, Dubai, London, Venice and other international cities.

In 2016 he was an artist-in-residence at the Leith School of Art, and he has since donated a number of works to Leith School of Art charity auctions. Now, he operates out of a studio at White House Cafe, and has had a number of recent exhibitions in Edinburgh including one at the Edinburgh Central Library*, and outside St John’s Church**. He is currently in talks with Creative Scotland to create a piece on ‘New Edinburgh’ to be displayed at the next fringe festival and other venues.

Speaking with him at his home in Edinburgh, Nihad shared some thoughts with us.

On his work:

My work usually always revolves around mythical creatures and animals. One reason I like mythical creatures is because I love history. My wife and I bought a house in Aleppo, and over time I had a library of over 1000 books in that library. Sadly, my library, alongside my house got bombed and turned into ashes.

On Edinburgh:

Edinburgh is a lovely, but very windy city! Other than the weather, I really do think this is a lovely and beautiful city. The people here are very kind and welcoming. There are racists everywhere of course, but generally the people are very welcoming.

Edinburgh’s historical feel and buildings continued my inspiration for my work. It extended this inspiration from Aleppo, as the historical stone buildings are very symbolic there as well and so gave me comfort.

On being a refugee:

We came from a country where there is war. Every refugee who is outside their country because of war is constantly worried and stressed, with their minds not fully there.

I didn’t learn english well yet because my mind is not here, my mind is still in Syria. This will need time, but I am patient because of my kids. I want to secure a future for my kids here and that is what motivates me. My dad is still in Syria, and so I constantly worry and stress about him.

We’re incredibly excited and honoured to showcase two artworks by Nihad; be sure to catch them at our exhibition this Thursday.

*New Works by Nihad Al Turk, Edinburgh Central Library

**Innocents on the Floodtide, outside St John’s Church on Princes Street for Refugee Week 2017


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