One Syrian refugee recycles pieces of garbage into works of diorama
Four years ago, Miteib Suleiman was forced to flee his hometown of Nabek in Syria because of the ravaging war. Along with his family, he moved to Koura in northern Lebanon where he currently works in the construction sector laying tiles.
However, the ongoing civil war in Syria did not stop 35-year-old Suleiman from pursuing a life-long dream of perfecting his skills in the art of diorama. This art form sees him creating three-dimensional figures in a miniature scale. His figurines consist mostly of items recognized throughout the Arab world, many of which are from a bygone era.
The talented Syrian told Newsweek Middle East that he’s had a passion for sculpting, painting and forming molds out of clay since he was young. Over the last three years, he has been working in 3D drawings and hopes this art form will gain more attention in the Arab world.
“I was introduced to the art of diorama on social media outlets and that was after I liked the page of one of the international artists of miniature figures. So, I decided to go ahead and start perfecting my skills,” he said.
Suleiman, who is a high school graduate, feels passionately about his heritage which is why his work features items like soubiya (an Arab heating stove), kettles, coffee cups especially in the Arab world and crafter insects, all of which were turned into figurines smaller than a pocket lighter.
For him, these items “are close to everyone’s hearts and are used every day. Some of the figurines which depict scenes from the olden days remind people of their past and bring back beautiful memories. That makes people happy to see such items again in that form.”
Suleiman uses all kinds of materials to create the figures because “there is nothing that cannot be used,” he said.
“Any piece of plastic, tin, steel, aluminum, cardboard, paper or wood can be raw material to create an art work. I get most of them from garbage dumped along road sides and I buy some of the items I can’t find,” Suleiman said.
Suleiman’s work is a testament to the saying ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and, thanks to an ongoing garbage crisis in Lebanon, he has no problem in sourcing material for his art work. Lebanon has been plagued with a waste management crisis since June 2015 and seen streets around the country are piled with massive amounts of trash—with no end in sight to the issue.
Of the process itself, Suleiman said it takes him “usually between two to three days and sometimes that extends to a whole month,” to create a piece. “It depends on the quality of the work and the quality of the materials used,” he added. Working on the tiniest of detail “takes up most of the time.”
Social media has not only helped Suleiman find and perfect his passion, it has also been an instrumental vehicle in selling his work.
His presence on Facebook has helped him garner technical, financial and moral support from fans and clients.
Suleiman’s work sells anywhere between $70 and $300 per piece. but he faces difficulty in delivering some of his work to remote areas outside northern Lebanon’s district.