Leilah Nadir: Iraqi-Canadian Author

Nahla Ink (NI): Since the first publication of ‘The Orange Trees of Baghdad’ in 2007, Syria has been affected by tragedy and it too is a part of your ancestral roots. What do you think about it?

Leilha Nadir (LN): ‘Syria was my place in my head up until recently, it was the country that I could always go back to, as my grandfather was Syrian and I’ve been to the town where he was from. I love Syria and visited a couple of times.

Merit Ariane Stephanos

Pretty and petite, with henna dyed hair that she keeps short and sweet, we meet at Warwick Avenue. Quickly, she falls into tune and says: “My mother, who is from Germany, used to sing to me while breast-feeding, as she believed it would develop my pitch. By the age of eleven months, I knew by heart twenty folk songs.” I am intrigued to find out how she came to be the voice and face for the Jaljala and the Hjaz musical projects.

Sam Brookes

The 24-year-old Sam Brookes, was born far away from Tripoli, Libya in Chertsey, Surrey and his family come from Bracknell. With three step-brothers and a sister, he tells me: “I’ve always loved to sing. As a young boy, my father and I performed in front of the Queen with the Royal School Queen Victoria Choir at the weekends. I was alto soprano and my father was bass. 

Halim Al-Karim, Iraqi Artist

Nahla: Today’s exhibition comes at the tenth year anniversary of the Iraq War. You left in 1991, would you ever consider going back? 

Halim Al-Karim: No, not yet. But Iraq never left me. Always, it is inside of me. And I am not sure if I go back. I cannot imagine to arrive in Baghdad airport and then take a taxi and to ask the driver to take me to a hotel, because I don’t have an address there anymore. And I am not ready to go to face the lost ones.

Nahla: How do you feel about being in London?