Omar bin Laden exhibits in Normandy

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Le Teilleul (France) (AFP) – Mountains and blood-red skies, peaceful camps in the desert or ships sailing at night under the moon: Omar Bin Laden exhibited at Le Teilleul in the English Channel, and his paintings began to be sold all over the world.

The 41-year-old son of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was shot and killed in Pakistan in 2011 by US special forces, began painting during his imprisonment.

“We were at home and did not do much. My wife painted, and I told myself I should try,” says this reserved man, tall, with curly brown hair falling on his shoulders and with a face eaten of a little salt on English. and pepper beard.

“I learned by watching guys on youtube (…) and I fell in love” in this art, he continues with the low voice that characterizes him. Among many other professions, painting has become “the most interesting”. When you manage to translate what you want, “you feel very happy,” he says.

Most of the paintings on display, the largest of which do not exceed 60×80 centimeters, appear as reminiscences from Omar bin Laden’s childhood and youth. His first year was spent in his home country, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi painter Omar bin Laden, fourth son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, during an exhibition of his works at Le Teilleul in the Manche department on July 1, 2022 Jean-Francois MONIER AFP

“So, from the time we were ten years old, we lived with my father in Sudan before we traveled (with him) to Afghanistan” four years later, he says.

Two countries that have deeply influenced him. The blood red of the mountains is Afghanistan, “a magnificent country”. “Red is suffering, war, bombings, death: that means it (…) It was the hardest period of my life”. A painting, “it becomes a part of yourself”, he analyzes, noting in passing that “some of me live in Afghanistan”.

After five years in this country, which he still holds dazzling memories of, he left his father as a 19-year-old. Thereafter, a travel career begins in several Arab countries, including Arabia, until his arrival in France and his installation in Normandy in 2016.

Become an “artist in France”

Last year, a first exhibition was interrupted by confinement. This time, about thirty paintings, often very colorful, are presented at a giant flea market by the side of the road, at the invitation of the manager of the place with whom the painter has sympathized.

“Since the first papers about his work, we sell a lot, all over the world. The exhibition has not yet been inaugurated, but some paintings have already been reserved (…) The name of Bin Laden sells”, recognizes the grocer, Pascal Martin.

Saudi painter Omar bin Laden, fourth son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, during an exhibition of his works at Le Teilleul in the Manche department on July 1, 2022
Saudi painter Omar bin Laden, fourth son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, during an exhibition of his works at Le Teilleul in the Manche department on July 1, 2022 Jean-Francois MONIER AFP / Archive

Prices range from 750/800 euros for the little ones to 2,000 / 2,500 for the elderly. To students who would be able to afford one of these paintings, “we made staggered sales,” Mr. Martin emphasizes.

Those who sign their OBL works feel “satisfied” when they paint. “I feel happier if it succeeds. Otherwise I start again and again,” he says with one of his rare smiles.

Far from the cities he says he hates, this lover of nature, large open spaces and freedom appreciates his new life. “Sometimes people judge you on your father,” he says, referring mainly to the Arab countries where he stayed after leaving Afghanistan. “But here I feel very free. I feel free from responsibility for my father’s actions (…) No one judges me, they respect me and they leave me alone”.

And he rejoices, “in France I became an artist!”

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