Islam is a carpenter and a poet and a painter. Since he left Syria and settled into a refugee camp, he fashioned an art wing off of his home from tarp and wood beams. It is a world of pigment and smoke.

Paintings hang across every vertical surface in the room, reworking fragments of reality on their hooks: Danielle Mitterand, the pro-Kurdish wife of French president Francois Mitterand, dangles across from Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy who drowned in the Mediterranean in 2015. An imaginary Rojava couple with dashed plans to be together in Europe, their impossible love rendered in blurred lines, rests against a jumbled pile.

Music is just another of Islam’s pastimes. He sings and strums folk songs, love songs, and his own compositions on the saz. Two years ago at the camp, he helped a group of boys and girls sing and recite poems to celebrate the Kurdish New Year which falls on the first day of spring. He says, “It’s important to teach kids.”