A young artist who came to Winnipeg as a refugee and has no formal training is hosting his first solo exhibition in the city later this month.
Ormeya Zagros, 24, was born in Syria. He later fled to Lebanon, where he lived in a refugee camp before coming to Winnipeg three years ago.
Most of his works are portraits of other refugees he’s met throughout his travels.
“Their faces are the faces of people who have been through really something rough and tough … their feelings,” said Zagros, who paints under the name Bîstyek (“in my first language, it means ’21,'” he said).
Though he wasn’t exposed to the work of some of history’s most prominent artists until quite recently, he always knew growing up that wanted to draw and illustrate — especially since his family did not have a television.
“I never thought that one day I’m going to be an artist, or that I’m going to do this full time,” he said.
“I couldn’t really explain or express myself, so painting, drawing, sketching and even graffiti, [they were] the only things that I could [use to] express myself, express the feelings.”
A career in art did not occur to Zagros until he came to Canada. Then, about a year ago, he quit his job to pursue his passion, he said.
“It was more than what I wanted. It was what I need to do,” he said, adding that, after he quit his job, he created half of the art that will be featured in the upcoming show.
The exhibition is being held in the Actual Gallery, an art gallery on Ross Avenue in the Exchange District area. It will feature over 50 pieces in total.
There are a handful of paintings that mean a lot to Zagros, he said, including the one featured on the front of the poster for the exhibition.
It shows a family — two children by their mother’s side, while the father looks at them helplessly — and soldiers in the background, along with faces of dictatorship, said Zagros.
“You immediately know what it’s about,” he said.
The show, also called Bîstyek, opens on Oct. 16 and runs for a month.
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