Who is Taha Malasi?
When you walk in to the Malasi household two things strike you – the warmth of their welcome and the array of fascinatingly vibrant paintings which adorn the walls of the hall and living rooms. The place positively radiates friendship and a deep sense of perception. You just know that you have stepped into the heart of an incredible family! The dinner was wonderful and the company totally fascinating. Malasi’s wife Stella is as brilliant a cook as he is an artist.
Malasi is a first and foremost a psychiatrist, with an amazing talent. His understanding of psychiatry and his patients is one thing, but his talent for painting is quite another. He told me that his inspiration comes in the main from his patients, that he can unburden himself by translating their feelings on to canvas. However a lot of the pictures I saw come from his own experiences.
At home in the Middle East, Malasi and his family experienced a myriad of emotion. Happiness, sadness, hardship, turmoil, all breathtakingly captured in oils. He talked a great deal about his life in Sudan and Kuwait and the influence it had on his work, both as a psychiatrist and an artist.
His paintings reflect a technique which is quite unique – you have to see the real thing to appreciate it. They all tell a story, stories you can feel that as you gaze into the depth of them. “Art in our family is just a way of life, something you do to relax, not something you can turn into a commercial proposition or expect to make a living from,” Mr Malasi said.
Malasi qualified as a doctor in Kuwait. In 1976 he came as a relatively young man to England to work at St Augustine’s Hospital and that’s where he learned his specialty. One of his paintings tells of his loneliness when he first arrived.
“It was Christmas,” he told me. “Everyone around me was celebrating. I sat in a pub one evening at a table in the middle of the room, a newly qualified doctor, believing I could set the world alight. I had left my family behind me and knew no one. Everyone seemed to be enjoying himself, except me.” I could feel his desolation through that painting, but like all the others it was still so strangely vibrant.
A huge wineglass reveals a sad figure sitting at a table in the middle of a room, streamers, crackers, and people dancing and having fun surround him. The composition is awesome! Another painting illustrated quite clearly the relationship between animals, humans, plants, water and air sharing the same composition in differing intensity, whilst at the same time being a totally beautiful work of art. I had two personal favourites. One entitled October Sun, a translucent composition of deer in woods with the sun shining through to reveal oak leaves and a whole variety of nature’s wonders. The other depicted the trauma of two young children experiencing the ravages of famine.
Some of these painting are copies of the originals, which Mr Malasi had to leave behind him in Kuwait, whilst fleeing during the Gulf War of the early ’90s…..but he couldn’t bear to be without them so he painted them again. Malasi had returned to his beloved Sudan in 1980 only to return to England to find work in Dudley in the early 90’s. In August 2001 Malasi found his present post in East Kent working in the mental health services in Dover and Ashford. His work is very important to him, he loves what he does and his work is totally absorbing.
The time he can devote to his painting is far less than he would like. For all that it is very evident that he is a happy man these days. He lives with his wife and his youngest daughter, a law student, in Canterbury, surrounded by his paintings. His pictures are clearly as precious to the rest of his family as they are to him.
By Isabel Woodroffe