Al-Satoor

"Sherif Dhaimish"

A photograph is not necessarily a lie, but it isn’t the truth either. It’s more like a fleeting, subjective impression. John Berger

This picture was taken at Linton Falls, North Yorkshire, in around 1996-1997. I took the picture. I was around 8-9 years old, hence why the focus isn’t great and nor is the composition. But then again, it’s perfect - I captured the crazy energy of my younger sister, Hanna, (right), and the slightly awkward body language of my just-turned teenage sister, Zahra. A happy family.

My beautiful mother is beaming like the sun, surrounded by her kids and husband in what I still consider to be one of the most beautiful pockets of the world. Shame about the scaffolding. My dad is in his 90s attire, and looks happy too. He’s wearing a burgundy Mighty Ducks cap. Around this time he started balding, which he hated.

At this point he had been away from Libya, his homeland, for over 20 years after leaving in 1975 aged 19. He had spent more of his life in England than Libya. A year or so earlier he lost his mother, my grandmother Selma, who we never got to meet, nor did he get to say goodbye to. That tore him apart, and instigated a long battle with depression.

Just a few years after this picture was taken, he began to publish anti-Gaddafi cartoons on Libya Watonona under the alias ‘Alsatoor’. He had been publishing work in print since 1980 under aliases including ‘Omran’, but the 1990s were dedicated to his own artistic practice and studies. He developed a deep love with jazz, including music by Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. The connection was deep - it changed his way of thinking and his approach to creativity.

I have fond memories of childhood, but there’s an overarching sadness that must have followed my dad around, something I find impossible to comprehend. He never got to go back and feel the sands of Benghazi under his feet, or embrace his parents and siblings.

The Libya I grew up imagining is 1960s Libya - the one my father grew up in. He would describe the smells, the heat, the landscape so majestically. It seemed like a paradise to me; a paradise we never got to visit together.

It’s not all sadness behind those eyes here, though. My dad was proud of his journey, especially around this time. He had recently graduated and become an A-Levels art teacher at a local college, to better himself and his family. It worked.

He is largely remembered as ‘Alsatoor’ - the wickedly hilarious satirist. But to me and my family, he was dad. Funny, intelligent and a great listener. This picture may not be the absolute truth, but it’s certainly not a lie. A fleeting, subjective impression that is forever etched in my memory.

A publisher based in London, he was born in Lancashire, England. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Leeds and a Master’s degree in Critical Approaches to Literature from King’s College London.

Sherif Dhaimish
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