Thinking with | Issam Kourbaj

In the context of the exhibit titled Fleeing the Dark, which began May 28 and closes October 3rd 2021, Issam Kourbaj responds to objects in the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen's collection with his own artworks. He creates "conversations around Syria and other universal themes related to the crisis there, such as war, migration and home." His work mobilizes the materials of "Seeds, Sands, and Moons," thinking through how dispersion, in the words of Derek Walcott always holds close the trauma that is “the bitter memory of migration” (Walcott, 41), yet as Kourbaj's Fleeing the Dark: Intervention pays forward, the seeds that inform Kourbaj's exhibit, "symbolize the pain people experienced, but a partly charred seed can still grow into a plant" (6).

In the context of Refugee Week, we invite Kourbaj, curator Sarah Johnson, and Content Director Wayne Modest to force us to think beyond the romanticizations of nomadism, beyond the often voyeuristic images of refugees, to think more caringly  about what it means to constanly be in the process of "scaling the dark" in ways that honor what it means to come into contact with, to become aware of, to care, but hopefully never to commit the monumental disrespect of trying to understand. 

Derek Walcott, “The Muse of History”, in Edward Baugh (ed.), Critics on Caribbean Literature, London, George Allan and Unwin, 1978 (1974). 

Fleeing the Dark: Intervention, Issam Kourbaj. Tropenmuseum publication, with support of BankGiroLoterij.