Letter: ‘Rich and Unique’ Lecture at New Canaan Library


Dear Editor,

What a rich and unique Stoddard lecture was held at New Canaan Library this week. This year’s speaker was artist and architect Mohamed Hafez, whose talk and work dealt with “home.” 

Born in Syria, Hafez spent the first half of his presentation contextualizing his artwork. He talked about life in the culturally diverse world of pre-war Damascus; about traveling to Disney as a kid and enjoying its culture shock; about following his siblings to study at the University of Iowa; about the warmth of family, rooted in endless conversation over coffee in traditionally appointed Syrian rooms. All these stories were important to hear as they made the second half of his presentation crackle with meaning. 

We then saw Hafez’s sculptures come alive on the screen in a way that felt as three-dimensional as the pieces themselves (currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, Bruce Museum, and Quick Center in Fairfield). He makes breathtakingly detailed miniatures of the rooms and buildings that tell his stories, both before and after the war and resultant refugee crisis. In that hour and half, Hafez showed that as much as war and traumatic displacement shape his life, his stories of home are human, universal. There is a heartbreaking nostalgia for home in these pieces, for the things large and small that have been tragically lost. There is also a heartwarming testimony of what all of us call home, and it is familiar and humanizing. 

My 18-year-old attended with me and was so glad he did. An aspiring architect and grandson of Cuban political exiles, he heard what Hafez said and it resonated for him, too. We left the library that night feeling uplifted from learning something new, and also grateful that New Canaan is our home. We are extremely lucky to have New Canaan Library, and wish to thank its smart, dedicated staff and enlightened and generous benefactors for all that they make possible for our community. 

Micaela Porta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *