In Serbian Refugee Center, a ‘Little Picasso’ Dreams of Art and Asylum

The Nouris are among the 4,700 asylum seekers who the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates are living in Serbia, whose government largely treats them as temporary residents.

As Farhad and his family wait to plot their future in another country — perhaps Germany, Switzerland or Sweden, his father says — they have been thrust into a whirlwind of publicity in Serbia.

Photo

Some of Farhad’s artwork in the family room. He says he wants to learn animation next.

Credit
Marko Risovic for The New York Times

Farhad’s first exhibition was held earlier this month in a Belgrade cafe. He sold photos he had taken and 20 scanned copies of his drawings to raise 34,000 Serbian dinars, or about $335, for a boy from Belgrade, Nemanja Damcevic, who was recovering after having surgery to remove a brain tumor. He also sold 11 of 12 original drawings to raise about $735 for his own family.

The Serbian pop star Svetlana Raznatovic, whose stage name is Ceca, visited Farhad at the asylum center to buy his art. In the spring, he befriended the American actor Mandy Patinkin.

On Wednesday, he and his family were invited to visit the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic. Farhad presented Mr. Vucic with a framed stylized portrait he had drawn of him. Mr. Vucic, in turn, offered Serbian citizenship to Farhad’s family if they chose to stay in the country.

“If you see the future here in Serbia, consider yourself welcome in our country,” Mr. Vucic told the boy as about a dozen journalists looked on.

Farhad, speaking in slow and careful Serbian, thanked the country for helping his family. “I want to live in Serbia,” he said. “We feel good in Serbia.”

Farhad was born in Isfahan, Iran. His father, Hakim Nouri, 33, was a teenager when he fled Herat, Afghanistan, after the Taliban took control. His family left Iran…

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