cover image Tears of Gold: Portraits of Yazidi, Rohingya, and Nigerian Women

Tears of Gold: Portraits of Yazidi, Rohingya, and Nigerian Women

Hannah Rose Thomas. Plough, $49.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-63608-080-2

British artist Thomas’s stunning debut presents her paintings of two dozen women who have endured persecution and displacement across the globe, including Yazidis who fled ISIS, Rohingya who escaped conflict in Myanmar, and Nigerians who survived Boko Haram. Thomas visited compounds and refugee camps to interview her subjects, and renders their stories with a brevity that belies their intensity—“Listen, you will act like you’re crazy so you can survive,” says 15-year-old Waso, whose mother instructed her to act as if she were mentally ill to evade capture by ISIS. Thomas also taught the women to paint, and each entry includes a small self-portrait. But Thomas’s portraits are the high point: using a different color palette for each group (mostly white and yellow for Yazidi women, reds and yellows with a dark background for Rohingya women, and blue and gold for the Nigerian sitters), she captures her subjects’ particularities, as well as the sometimes-haunted, sometimes-resolute gaze they share­—which often seems to stare straight through the viewer. In his foreword, King Charles III writes that Thomas’s paintings reflect “the nobility, dignity, and extraordinary compassion that many of [the women] manage to retain, despite their traumatic experiences.” Fashioned with uncommon care, this impresses. (Feb.)