Occurs on Wednesday May 29 2019

Approximate running time: 2 hours


The Port Theatre
125 Front St
Nanaimo BC V9R 6Z4

Performance Notes

× Fundraiser presented by The Wiltshire Education Society

In their celebration of beauty through music, the Orontes Guitar Quartet from Damascus gives us a glimpse of the real Syria, a country with an extraordinary history of art and culture. The four talented musicians - Orwa Al-Shara’a, Nazir Salameh, Gaby Al-Botros and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud - play a wide range of musical styles, from classical, jazz and flamenco to romantic, blues and country. The Quartet, who have performed with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, are in Canada for just a year, thanks to the generosity of the Artist Protection Fund, a New York-based organization that seeks safe havens for gifted artists around the world who are under threat.

After first meeting up as students at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus, three of the Quartet were forced by the civil war to flee to Lebanon, where they met renowned American classical guitarist Susan McDonald. With her help, they obtained fellowships from the APF as Visiting Artists at the University of Victoria. The Orontes Quartet are among the youngest APF fellows and the first to be placed in Canada. In addition to coaching UVic students and making a recording, the Quartet is performing across BC and planning a limited Canadian tour.

Two further examples of Syrian art will be on display during the evening:

Dema Maksod, a Syrian artist from Latakia, will be exhibiting some of her stunning paintings in the Lobby. Dema, an art graduate from Damascus University, held many exhibitions in the Middle East before a grenade destroyed her studio and she was forced to relocate to Lebanon where she continued her work and provided support for other Syrian refugees. Since moving to Canada in November 2017, she has held exhibitions at VIU and at The Old School House in Qualicum Beach.

Margriet Ruurs, author of the internationally-acclaimed children’s book Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, will talk about the story behind the writing of the book and her extraordinary collaboration with Syrian sculptor Nizar Ali Badr, also from Latakia. Margriet will present some of Nazir’s wonderful stone artwork used to illustrate her touching story of the family that is forced to flee their homeland and begin life in a new country. Sales of the book have raised nearly $100,000 for settlement assistance to refugees. The Wiltshire Education Society is proud to showcase the work of these very talented artists at the Port Theatre. WES is a registered non-profit society that provides educational opportunities and family support for young people from conflict zones. Proceeds from the evening will be directed to the current WES project which aims to bring a refugee family from Afghanistan to Nanaimo to be reunited with their eldest daughter, a student at VIU.

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