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Khaled Akil

Khaled Akil, from the series Legend of Death, 2013.
Courtesy of the artist.

Legend of Death

Legend of Death is Syrian artist Khaled Akil’s visual journey through Syria and his native Aleppo, one of the world’s earliest settlements. The work unfolds as a dreamlike paradox in which the ephemeral and the permanent overlap, coming together on the edge of beauty and tragedy.

What one sees when looking into these images is a dual universe wherein creatures and symbols from the ancient world merge with the visual fragments of war and abandonment. As the 5,000-year-old land of Syria experiences one of its darkest periods, with its cultural heritage being dismantled and destroyed, Khaled Akil’s work presents a reminder that empires rise and fall, and conquerors come and go, but the Mesopotamia of 1000-900 BCE remains, a land that is fertile with the symbols and forms of civilization.

These works were produced in the middle of the Syrian war, during the battles for Aleppo. Khaled Akil subjects his original photographs to countless layers of manual intervention that ultimately result in digital prints. With their mixture of photography, painting, and Arabic calligraphy, the dense surfaces of the works make them seem like engravings on ancient stone, once preserved, but now destroyed by war. With them, the artist creates a tribute to an ageless Syria that has existed through millennia of history.

Escaping from the civil war in Syria, Khaled Akil recently settled in Turkey with his wife. The context of Legend of Death includes both his experiences during the civil war and his ideas about the regime of current President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

Adapted from the artist’s statement and texts published by Chalabi Gallery in Istanbul, 2013


Khaled Akil’s work focuses primarily on social, political, and sexual issues in the Middle East. He was born in 1986 in Aleppo, Syria, where his family has a long history. He has a bachelor’s degree in law and political science, which has enabled him to do his artistic investigations in the context of the social issues that he observes on a daily basis. He has spent much of the current Syrian war in Aleppo. He is currently working on a temporary basis in Istanbul.

His interest in photography started as a hobby, but he has developed it into a professional career. His experience with political law and his knowledge of human rights play a major role in his work and have helped him find new and deeper perspectives in the social, political, and religious issues he sees in society. He established his own gallery in Aleppo, where he organized photography workshops and art exhibitions for other artists.

He has had solo exhibitions at Chalabi Art Gallery, Istanbul (2013); Lahd Gallery, London (2012); Karma Art Gallery, Aleppo (2011); Mustafa Ali Art Foundation, Damascus (2010); Sarmod Gallery, Aleppo (2009); and Le Pont Gallery, Aleppo (2009). His works are in the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, U.A.E.

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