Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Nottingham via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme
This is the furniture maker
I worked as a wood craftsman, an artist, cutting and drawing shapes into wood... I handmade everything from armchairs to wardrobes to beds.
Since a peaceful protest for democratic reform turned into Civil War, Syria has been decimated. According to Shelterbox.org, one in four schools have been damaged, half of the hospitals no longer function, and millions of hectares of farmland have been destroyed, forcing half of the population to flee their homes. Some have arrived in Nottingham via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme (VPRS). Others through sheer will and determination.
We spoke to some of these people to put a face to the statistics, to remember ordinary people doing ordinary jobs and living an ordinary life were forced to leave their home. This is one of their stories. This is the furniture maker.
I am Samir. There were no restrictions living in Damascus before the war. Everyone was happy and lived freely. What more can I say? Since the 1970s I worked as a wood craftsman, an artist, cutting and drawing shapes into wood. Rich people don’t buy a ready-made bed. They come to me to make a headrest. I handmade everything from armchairs to wardrobes to beds. I had a catalogue of designs I had created which I would draw onto wood and then begin to chisel away. A chair, for example, would take about two weeks to make. This is because it would be created out of different parts which had to be glued together, then painted before adding cloth to the frame to make it comfortable to sit on.
Comic art panel from What is Coming
We used solid woods like Oak or Almond and also because these were the most common trees. In 1997 I stopped working due to health issues. I have spent my life stood up carving and my body began to fail me. I then got a job selling female clothes from three shops. These were mainly sporting clothes for women between 15-25. I did this till 2013 but then fled Syria for Jordan. In Jordan I started making things out of wood again because there wasn’t any other work. I did this till the end of 2015 and then came to Britain with my wife and son. Now I feel very bored. I have nothing to do. And at my age it’s even harder to find work.
Two weeks ago, I travelled to Germany to get some specialist tools in case I can do furniture work again. The tools I used in Syria were made in Germany. I participate in workshops with the refugee forum. They are trying to get some funds to get tools so I can teach other refugees. When you’re making something the most important skill is imagination. You are confronted with a big block of wood but have to see it becoming something else. If you don’t have imagination, you can still create things. Study a picture you like, and you will eventually translate it into something. It just takes hard work, concentration and commitment. But you can do it.
Samir spoke to James Walker on 29 April 2018 in Beeston, Nottingham. Maamon acted as translator.
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