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Archibald Prize entry inspired by strength and resilience of artist’s murdered mother

Posted April 10, 2018 06:48:15

Amani Haydar’s paintings are often of women with tears running down their face.

They illustrate the pain and grief she feels over the murder of her mother Salwa Haydar, 45, by her father Haydar Haydar in 2015.

But Amani’s entry into this year’s Archibald Prize is different.

It’s a self portrait โ€” in it she stares back at you, defiant, strong and proud.

“This painting is about me reclaiming that story from the headlines, from the reports and giving it my own voice and telling it in my own words,” Ms Haydar said.

“Because of the trauma I’ve experienced and being part of a long trial process and a lot of media attention, I did feel at times that I was silenced and my Mum’s story wasn’t even coming through.”

Last year, Haydar Haydar was sentenced to a minimum 18 years in jail for stabbing his wife to death, and for wounding his daughter Ola, who tried to intervene during the attack.

Amani Haydar, who is a lawyer and mother of two from western Sydney, had been thinking about the concept of her painting for months, inspired by a picture taken of her mother in 2006.

It is a news photograph of Salwa Haydar holding a framed picture of her own mother, who was killed in Israeli airstrikes in the south of Lebanon.

In the self-portrait, the picture sits in Amani Haydar’s hands, depicting three generations of women in her family.

“I felt that my Mum’s loss was then mirrored in my own loss and it was echoing through these generations,” she said.

“For my Mum that was obviously very tragic. She learnt of her mum’s death through the television in the evening news.

“I just thought there are so many similarities between what is now my experience and what my Mum must have felt in that time when she lost her mother, also in circumstances that were so beyond her control and so aggressive and so violent.”

But this painting is also about their resilience.

While the picture of her mother is black and white, Ms Haydar is clothed in bright colours and flowers.

She said this part of the painting happened organically.

“I went with it because I felt that there was so much doom and gloom around me and this would help represent me emerging from that and feeling a real sense of growth and creativity and inspiration come back into my life after a period of so much negativity and horror,” Ms Haydar said.

Art raising awareness of domestic violence

Painting the picture was cathartic for Ms Haydar, and coincidentally, after all those months of planning, she finally put brush to canvas around three years to the day after her mother was killed.

Once she began, it only took two weeks to complete.

Since her mother’s death, Ms Haydar has had two children and has worked to learn more about women’s issues and domestic violence.

More recently she’s put that into practice by volunteering at the Bankstown Women’s Health Centre.

Now Ms Haydar hopes this painting will contribute further to her advocacy around violence against women.

“I’d like people to look at this painting and see three women whose stories are interconnected, three generations of women who weren’t just victims but were also strong and resilient in their own way,” she said.

“I’d like people to reflect on the violence that women are subjected to both within the home and outside it.”

Topics: visual-art, fine-art-photography, painting, law-crime-and-justice, murder-and-manslaughter, sydney-2000, bexley-2207

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