In a drafty apartment on Southeast Powell Boulevard, not far from the Interstate 205 interchange, a 32-year-old man struggles to express his feelings.
He landed on the edge of Portland knowing no one, and he speaks little English. The best way to say what's on his mind -- and in his heart -- is through art.
With intense dark eyes, he looks around the narrow room for supplies. There is little space between his bed and the twin bed of another man. Living on a $339 stipend that will run out in six months, he shares the $650-a-month apartment with four other political refugees, all Iraqis like him, all far from their homeland and families.
It talks about how he was conscripted to paint Saddam Hussein, who like his work so much he painted 83 paintings in all. Then after Saddam fell, Samir painted family portraits from snapshots provided to him by soldiers. Until he was targeted for death by the opposition. For years before he came to Portland, he lived in a refugee camp.
This weekend, his paintings were on display, along with photographs a friend of ours took of things Iraqi refugees took from their homeland, and two paintings by another refugee. There were also drawings done by children at a refugee camp in Jordan. Those drawings said things like "My school" and showed bombs, flames and many many bodies.
We talked for a while to Sam. He was dressed in what were clearly thrift store clothes. He was passionate and intense and tried to find the words for what he wanted to say. English will be his fifth language. Before, he was destined to work in the Danner Boot Factory. Now he might make a living at his art.
You can read the first Oregonian story here. [Warning: do not read the comments unless you want to experience how mean some folks are. I think web sites need to do away with anonymous comments. So often it's trolls spewing hate.]
The second Oregonian article: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/03/iraqi_immigrant_artist_samir_k.html
Some of Samir’s artwork here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=321476&id=126366693832