Um Na’im

oil on MDF (120x70), 2011

This old kind-hearted lady is our village neighbor. She maintains a good physical health; wakes up every early morning to go to a fountain on the top of the mountain to fill her jar. Unfortunately, after finishing this painting, I was shocked to see her face local news crying her only son “Naeem” who was murdered with an assassin’s bullet in the head.. Leaving behind him three little kids.


      Nada, this piece is stunning in its vibrance and conveyance of emotion. Before her photograph was published in the paper, following her son’s death, I see that she has experienced hardships requiring perseverance. Her expression is stern but her eyes are soft and moist. Beyond her pains she shows bravery to keep faith and humanity in her heart. I wonder what Um Na’im means. Is it her name? How do you think you would paint her now, after the loss of her son?
    • Hi Uji,

      Thank you for your feedback and question! 

      ‘Naeem’ is her son’s name which means ‘Paradise’ in Arabic, ‘Um’ means a ‘mother’. She is ‘mother of Naeem’. You can read more about this prefixed naming tradition in this link . 

      Actually, it’s worth saying that Naeem was not her real son, his mom died when he was a small child, his dad got remarried and Naeem got a new loving mom. He remained her only child, and she loved him as a son of her own.

      I’m still reflecting on your question about how I might paint her again.. I guess I would have liked to meet her again to see what her eyes might have said about life. Unfortunately, she passed away 3 years ago. 

      However, after I heard about her son’s death I went back to the painting and added this black brush stroke to the left side of the painting. As a symbol for her loss that will become imprinted in her identity.


    • Thank you for sharing Um Na’im’s story, Nada. My understanding is that it is sign of respect, calling someone after their eldest son’s name instead of using their first name. And she becomes even more elevated because you call her Um Na’im, after her adopted son. What a beautiful tradition.


      The black brush stroke is a meaningful addition, much like a scar or subtle contamination, yet very present. I, too, am curious as to how the portrait would have changed if you saw her again. However, through the lens of your painting, I feel that she was strong of mind and spirit so the person she was would only falter, not fail. Perhaps another portrait would not be so different as she still had hope and the will to live for her grandchildren.