22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Hamid Sulaiman

Portrait Hamid Sulaiman
© Ali Ghandtschi

The painter and illustrator Hamid Sulaiman was born in Damascus in 1986. He began studying architecture and art at the University of Damascus in 2005 and graduated in 2010, after which he worked as a graphic designer in Syria. After the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, he was temporarily imprisoned and eventually fled via Jordan to Egypt and from there to Germany and France.

He spent four years finishing his graphic novel about the Syrian war, »Freedom Hospital« (2017), which is his first book. The »dark masterpiece about the world war at our doorstep« (Tobias Rapp, »Der Spiegel«) tells the story of an underground hospital in Syria in 2012, in which a pacifist allows wounded rebels to be treated. In this way, she wants to support the uprising, which is led here by Abu Taysir, a member of the Free Syrian Army. Even if the location of the plot is fictional, Sulaiman’s characters are inspired by real people with highly diverse biographies: in addition to the doctor, there is the hospital’s cook, who has fled from her Sunni family; a patient who is revealed to be a spy of Assad’s regime; and a French journalist who wants to make a documentary about the war. As Sulaiman noted in an interview, during the writing process he was influenced by comic authors like Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Joe Sacco, and Alan Moore and in the drawing process was inspired by Will Eisner, Frank Miller, and Hugo Pratt. For Sulaiman, the art of the graphic novel is a simple one and, compared to other media forms such as film, a relatively cheap medium with which he can express his observations and feelings. Sulaiman depicts the division of Syrian society with black and white images, and his book is thus »a powerful answer to propaganda images spread by IS or the Syrian state TV […]~– with a clearly anti-authoritarian handwriting. […] ›Freedom Hospital‹ is a monument to resolute rebellion, refusal, and remembrance – to a revolutionary movement that already ceases to exist in the moment it is observed« (Andreas Fanizadeh, »taz«).

For his second graphic novel, Sulaiman is planning a story about Abu Taysir, one of the characters in »Freedom Hospital«, who lived through the massacre of Hama in 1982. There, an estimated 30,000 people died in attacks by the Syrian army. Sulaiman’s work has been exhibited in cities including Berlin, Paris, Cairo, Vienna, Bonn, Dresden, London, and Milan and has earned numerous awards. He lives in Berlin and Paris.