2018 Art Competition

Date: August 27, 2018

2018 Art Competition

The 2018 AUAF Fine Arts Competition for International Assyrian Artists gives Assyrian visual artists worldwide at any stage of their careers the opportunity to promote their work and enhance their careers. This year's theme is Awakening.

Assyrian artists are invited to submit original pieces in any two-dimensional medium, excluding photography. Art submitted to the competition will be reviewed by an independent panel of expert jurors to ensure a fair and balanced judgement process. Prizes will be awarded to the artists whose work best represent the theme:

  • 1st Place—$5,000
  • 2nd Place—$3,000
  • 3rd Place—$2,000

Submission deadline is November 15, 2018 at 11:59pm. 

The competition is open to Assyrian artists from around the world aged 18 years or older. Read our 2018 competition guidelines for more information.


Assyrian artist Paul Batou reveals his favorite painting

Date: February 23, 2018

Revered Assyrian artist Paul Batou is known around the world for his unique paintings that capture the beauty and the sorrow that defines the Assyrian experience. The California-based Assyrian artist will be in Chicago next month for the opening night of his solo exhibition at the Studio Gallery at AUAF: Poems & Colors.

We spoke to Batou for a quick Q&A ahead of his new exhibition. 

AUAF: What inspires your work as an artist and a poet? 

Batou: Our world is full of excitement. I take inspiration from different events, human struggles, their moments of happiness, our diaspora and our culture. All of those inspire me to create art. As for my poems, the inspiration comes from people, our thoughts, and things I hear in all sorts of discussions. 


AUAF: What is your artistic process? 

Batou: All my paintings start with an idea. I usually have a plan for it. Lately, my goal is to create art pieces based on our culture and connect the present to the past, to Mesopotamia. The idea or planning process takes me longer than producing an art piece. 


AUAF: Do you have a personal favorite among your own works? 

Batou: "Journey with Ishtar" is my favorite painting. It's also the cover of my autobiography My Last Thoughts about Iraq. It's based on a long poem that I wrote. 

"Journey with Ishtar" by Paul Batou


AUAF: What can people expect from your upcoming gallery "Poems & Colors?"

Batou: All of the paintings in my upcoming show "Poems & Colors" were inspired by Marina Benjamin's poems. I read all of her poems and interviewed Marina to understand her thoughts, and then I created a plan to translate her poetry into colors. Viewers will experience the colors of Mesopotamia. I've painted our language, customs, struggle, broken artifacts, love—our search for beauty and freedom in unique colors for people to connect and enjoy. 

Join us at the AUAF on Friday, March 16, 2018 for the opening night of Paul Batou's Solo Exhibition "Poems & Colors." The evening will include a poetry reading and guitar performance. Admission is free.

On Mother Language Day

Date: February 21, 2018

Despite a wide array of international efforts to preserve it, the Assyrian language is steadily on the decline. Our believed mother tongue is losing out to English and other world languages, particularly among younger generations of Assyrians, as more and more become a part of the diaspora community.

Too often do we take it for granted. It’s almost as though because the language has survived thousands of years, through war and displacement, we feel that it will simply continue to do so without our active efforts. Think about this: Nearly everything you learned about in your history classes–from the Middle Ages to William Shakespeare to the signing of the Declaration of Independence–occurred while there were Assyrians somewhere in the world speaking their rich language.

It is our duty as Assyrians to pass the language on to future generations. Preserving an endangered ancient language is a huge undertakingand often times it might seem like too great of a challenge. We must make a choice to accept its preservation as our duty. Take the initiative to learn your language: Accepting this responsibility is the only way to ensure its survival.

“We understand the beauty of our mother tongue when we are abroad.”
George Bernard Shaw 

This International Mother Language Day, we’re sharing 10 small ways you can do your part:

    1. Subscribe to Bet Kanu–the “House of Creation.” Founded by a talented group of young and dedicated Assyrians in Syria, Bet Kanu offers a wide range of products designed to make learning the Assyrian language easy and enjoyable. Available in both Eastern and Western dialects, Bet Kanu products are used and loved around the world. From mobile apps to games, songs (click here to watch the “Finger Family” song in Assyrian), and videos, the team at Bet Kanu makes available modern resources to learn an ancient language. Be sure to check out KANU KIDS for adorable mini-series like the hit “Nino & Mia” that will spark interest in even the youngest Assyrian minds–teaching them the language and valuable lessons!
    2. Download Base 2 Applications apps. Take a look at their popular Assyrian apps available to you in the App store. Their apps will make learning the alphabet fun at any age.
    3. Visit LearnAssyrian.com. This website is a wonderful resource, but requires serious commitment. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen, and get ready to teach yourself using their free 41-page guide. If you’ve got little ones at home, Learn Assyrian is also home to the wildly popular Assyrian alphabet learning blocks. Order yours today!
    4. Attend classes at the ANCI. The Assyrian National Council of Illinois offers Assyrian language classes for both children and adults in the Chicagoland area. Take advantage of these free courses; before you know it, you’ll be reading right to left with ease. Assyrian language classes are offered across the United States. If you’re outside Illinois and looking for a class near you, feel free to contact us for help.
    5. Check out SargonSays.com. Sargon Says offers an English to Assyrian dictionary that is an incredible resource to those looking to refine their language skills, as well as those new to the language.
    6. Stop by The Ashurbanipal Library. Our library here at the AUAF has tons of resources available for anyone looking to learn the Assyrian language, like Dr. Simo Parpola’s famous Assyrian-English-Assyrian Dictionary.
    7. Enforce the popular “Assyrian Only” rule in your home–and not just when the grandparents are around.
    8. Challenge your friends. The next time you guys are hanging out, challenge each other to use only Assyrian. It may seem weird at first, but it can also be fun.
    9. Make a pledge to learn the Assyrian alphabet by the end of this year. Here’s a great video from Rinyo to help you do so!
    10. Watch video lessons created by Modern Assyrian on Youtube.

AUAF Announces Fine Arts Competition for International Assyrian Artists

Date: February 8, 2018

The Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation announces a call for entries for the 2018 AUAF Fine Arts Competition for International Assyrian Artists. The first of its kind, the competition gives Assyrian visual artists worldwide at any stage of their careers the opportunity to promote their work and enhance their careers. This year's theme is Awakening.

Assyrian artists are invited to submit original pieces in any two-dimensional medium, excluding photography. Art submitted to the competition will be reviewed by an independent panel of expert jurors to ensure a fair and balanced judgement process. Prizes will be awarded to the artists whose work best represent the theme:

  • 1st Place—$5,000
  • 2nd Place—$3,000
  • 3rd Place—$2,000

Last year’s competition was limited to Assyrian artists based in the United States. Sixteen talented artists from across the country entered a total of thirty-nine pieces in the AUAF’s first-ever art competition. Click here to see the winners of the 2017 AUAF Art Competition.

This year’s competition is open to Assyrians around the world. Submission deadline is August 15, 2018 at 11:59pm. There’s no charge to enter. Participants must be 18 years of age or older. Learn more about the competition and how to enter.

The AUAF sponsors this competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent in the Assyrian community.

Assyrian Artist Noora Badeen Wins Second Place in Art Competition Honoring MLK

Date: February 6, 2018

Hostelling International Chicago's Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Mural Competition invites local students to create murals that are painted onto the second floor windows of the hostel. This year, twenty students were selected to participate by painting individual pieces honoring the life and work of Dr. King. 

The exhibition, entitled "Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters," is a consideration of the continuing work for justice and racial integration today. The competition is carried out in collaboration with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and gives student artists the opportunity to share perspectives of issues of diversity and civil rights in contemporary society. 

"No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (August 28, 1963)

Local Assyrian artist Noora Badeen was awarded second place in this year's competition on January 16, 2018. Native to Baghdad, Iraq, Badeen views art as a way to raise awareness about human suffering and promote social justice for all people of the world. Her work primarily focuses on marginalized women and children in the Middle East, and the challenges they face trying to navigate life in conflict-affected areas. She is currently a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Badeen cites Dr. King as a source of inspiration, "He planted the seed for equality in 1950 when he started a movement for Civil Rights. That was the beginning of the long fight for equality for all human beings in America. His dream to make a better life for the next generation was cut short on April 4, 1968 when he was shot and killed where he was standing on the balcony of the Memphis, Tennessee hotel."

Badeen's prize-winning piece has three parts depicting iconic scenes from the Civil Rights Movement. "In the the bottom panel, my idea was to show the ugliness of discrimination in Alabama towards the black community. Then, in the middle panel, several Americans are standing united in support of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision for equality. By interlocking hands, they portray a sense of strength and belief in their mission. The top panel depicts a strong call to action from Martin Luther King, Jr. in his attempt to rouse the people to take a step forward towards justice." 

See more of Noora Badeen's work currently on display in the Studio Gallery at AUAF until February 28. 


The "Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters" Exhibition is open to the public and is on display through early March. For more information, visit www.hichicago.org or contact Anna Henschel at anna.henschel@hiusa.org. 


2017 AUAF Scholarship Recipients

Date: January 10, 2018

AUAF values education and the role it plays in helping young Assyrians build a better future for themselves and their community. As the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization supporting Assyrian American higher education, we have awarded more than a million dollars in scholarships over the years.

Here are our scholarship award recipients from 2017:


Amanda Slefo, Northeastern Illinois University

With the support of the AUAF, Amanda Slefo obtained her ELL endorsement from Northeastern Illinois University. She tutors recent immigrants and refugees at the AUAF.


Rashel Pakbaz, University of Cambridge

Rashel Pakbaz is a PhD student. Her goal as a researcher at Cambridge is to collect, document, and examine ancient and modern Assyrian music in order to identify the ways in which it helps preserve the Assyrian ethnic identity.

Nenous Thabet, University of Baghdad 

Nenous Thabet is a young Assyrian artist from the Nineveh Plain in Iraq. After escaping ISIS, and later returning to help rebuild his hometown, Nenous plans to attend art school in Baghdad, Iraq. Learn more here.

Khoyada Scholarship 

We were proud to partner with the Iraq-based Chaldo-Assyrian Student Union, commonly known as Khoyada, to present $4,000 in scholarships to top Assyrian high school graduates in northern Iraq: Nataliya Sabah Shaya, Lara Hikmat Khaleel, Isha Ismaeel Isha, Georges Marqus Eramia, Ator Tawr, and Rafil Aamir Goryel. Details here.


2017 Year in Review: Our Donations

Date: January 9, 2018

At AUAF, we strive to preserve and promote Assyrian heritage and culture, and create positive change within the Assyrian community globally through social service, art, education, and humanitarian projects. In addition to our own programs and projects, AUAF receives hundreds of requests each year from worthy organizations and individuals throughout the international Assyrian community.

Here’s a look back at the different nonprofits and projects we supported in 2017 and what they’re doing to make a difference:

Assyrian Aid Society

The Assyrian Aid Society (AAS) is leading numerous initiatives across Iraq aimed at reviving Assyrian areas devastated by ISIS and promoting economic development. The nonprofit has also implemented various public works projects, and continues to provide access to free medical care to Assyrian families. The AAS funds more than 30 Assyrian schools in northern Iraq, supporting thousands of Assyrian students. Learn more about their projects and how you can help here.

Assyriska FF

Assyriska FF is a Swedish-based professional soccer team formed in 1974 by Assyrian immigrants. It is often viewed as a substitute national team by the Assyrian people. Visit their official website.

Modern Assyrian Studies at the University of Cambridge

The AUAF has supported a major project led by Dr. Geoffrey Khan that is tracing the ancient roots of the Assyrian language and documenting and preserving it in all its rich diversity. Dr. Khan has also trained members of the Assyrian community to become directly involved with the task of documenting and preserving their own linguistic heritage. Check out a lecture by Dr. Khan.

The Assyrian Journey

Director Frank Gilbart has taken on the enormous task of telling the riveting story of the Assyrian resistance of the 1980s. Filming is underway across parts of Iraq, and we were proud to partner with the production team to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the Assyrian nation. Get updates on the film here.

Aramaic Bible Translation

The AUAF continues its commitment to the preservation of the Assyrian language, and this year awarded a grant to the Aramaic Bible Translation to support their efforts to translate the Bible into modern dialects of Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic). Learn more about their important work.

Hurricane Relief

The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria made a profound impact on our local Assyrian-American community. The aftermath of these natural disasters resembles the recent destruction of parts of the Assyrian homeland due to violence. We know firsthand the hardships and challenges that face devastated communities as they start to rebuild, and for that reason were moved to make a donation towards disaster relief in solidarity with the affected communities. Read our Board President’s full statement here.

The Guardians of Civilisation 

We are proud to partner with Sagar and Stagara to present this documentary film which follows Assyrian artist Thabet Mikhail and his family who fled their home in Bakhdida, Iraq when ISIS invaded the Nineveh Plain. While living as IDPs in Ankawa, Thabet and his son Nenos, also an artist, watched as ISIS destroyed invaluable parts of Assyrian heritage. After the liberation of the Nineveh Plain, they returned home to find it in ruins. In response to the violence and destruction, Thabet and Nenos decided to rebuild. Not only their hometown, but the iconic pieces that had been reduced to dust. The power of human creation prevails over the destruction of war. Watch the trailer.

Assyrian Athletic Club

Since its inception in 1970, the Assyrian Athletic Club has created opportunities for young Assyrians to come together and develop lasting relationships. Their mission goes beyond athletics, building a sense of community among newer generations of Assyrians in the area. We are proud to continue our partnership with the AAC. Get involved!

Gilgamesh Musical: An Assyrian Musical

The Gilgamesh Musical Album is based on an epic poem from ancient Assyria: The Epic of Gilgamesh. The poem is considered the first documented work of literature, originally inscribed on clay tablets. We were proud to support the ongoing effort to bring this legendary tale to life. Pre-order you copy today.

Assyrian National Broadcasting

In addition to our regular programming on ANB that launched last year, we were proud to make a donation to ANB Sat. The unique broadcasting station has created a bridge connecting Assyrians all over the world through its programming. Watch Live.

Assyrian Church of the East

We were proud to make a donation towards Chicago’s first-ever Assyrian Food Festival hosted by the Assyrian Church of the East. Missed our booth at the event? Here’s a recap.


AUAF charitable donations and sponsorships are given primarily to Assyrian organizations, individuals, and initiatives. To request a donation, please click here and follow our guidelines. 

2017 Milestones

Date: December 28, 2017

2017 was a big year here at the AUAF. Looking back, here are some of our biggest milestones:

  1. Our grand re-opening

    The AUAF was founded in 1978 as an organization focused on assisting Assyrian refugees with the resettlement process. It has since expanded its mission to support the preservation of Assyrian culture and heritage, as well as the advancement of Assyrian arts and education. In 2012, we moved from a small office on Clark Street in Chicago to our community center in Lincolnwood. It wasn’t until earlier this year that our space finally reflected our broad mission—unveiling our Studio Gallery, the Nebu J. Issabey Music Wing, and a revamped Ashurbanipal Library. Take a tour of our community center here.

  2. The first-ever Assyrian art gallery in diaspora

    The Studio Gallery at the AUAF is the first of its kind: A unique space dedicated to the advancement of contemporary and visual performing artists. Our Grand Opening Art Exhibition included the works of nine renowned Assyrian artists, including the late Hannibal Alkhas and Issa Benyamin, as well as modern talents—the likes of Paul Batou and Reni Stephan. The Studio Gallery officially opened on May 7, 2017. Our newest exhibition is currently on display, featuring rising Assyrian talents. Plan your visit.

  3. The first-ever music school for Assyrian students in diaspora

    The Nebu J. Issabey Program launched in 2014, and for more than two years, lessons were held in various conference rooms at our community center. On May 7, 2017, we unveiled the Nebu J. Issabey Music Wing, named in honor of the late Maestro Nebu J. Issabey. With seven classrooms and a team of dedicated instructors, our Music Wing is currently the only facility in the world designed to support the growth of a new generation of Assyrian artists. This year, we introduced the first Assyrian American Youth Orchestra.

AUAF Awards Scholarships to Top Assyrian Graduates in Northern Iraq

Date: December 20, 2017

Through community grants and scholarships, the AUAF helps Assyrian students across the globe gain the support and education they need to shape our community’s future. We were proud to partner with the Iraq-based Chaldo-Assyrian Student Union, commonly known as Khoyada, to present $4,000 in scholarships to top Assyrian high school graduates in northern Iraq. 

Recipients of this AUAF scholarship included: 

  • Nataliya Sabah Shaya
  • Lara Hikmat Khaleel
  • Isha Ismaeel Isha
  • Georges Marqus Eramia
  • Ator Tawr
  • Rafil Aamir Goryel

These students were identified as the top high school graduates of the 2016-2017 academic school year, and are now enrolled at various universities across Iraq. It is our hope that the scholarships awarded would encourage these students to continue to excel as they pursue higher levels of education. 

The scholarships were presented at Khoyada's anniversary party held in Alqosh, Nineveh Plain on December 9, 2017. The AUAF also recently presented a $5,000 scholarship to Assyrian artist Nenous Thabet, who plans to pursue artistic studies in Baghdad next year. 

AUAF Awards Scholarship to Rising Assyrian Artist

Date: December 13, 2017

Through community grants and scholarships, the AUAF helps Assyrian students across the globe gain the support and education they need to shape our community’s future. We were proud to award a $5,000 scholarship to Nenous Thabet as he pursues artistic studies in Iraq.

Nenous is a young artist living in Bakhdida, a town in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain. In August 2014, his family was forced to flee their hometown as ISIS invaded the region, and spent three years living in Ankawa. Nenous and his father, Thabet Mikhael, are both artists and were deeply impacted by the footage that emerged showing the terrorist group’s destruction of Assyrian heritage sites. While most felt powerless, Nenous decided there was only one thing he could do: Rebuild.

They waged a war on art and culture, so I decided to fight them with art.

Following the liberation of the Nineveh Plain in early 2016, Nenous’s family returned home to find it in ruins: Homes were burnt from the inside out, buildings reduced to rubble, churches blackened by fire. Worst of all, the town was empty. A vibrant city had become a ghost town.

Nearly a year later, life is slowly returning to the town. Nenous and his father led a campaign to eliminate ISIS graffiti in various towns of the Nineveh Plain, leading a team of artists who together painted colorful murals over hateful words. Families have moved back, shops have reopened, and school is in session—but there’s a long, long way to go.

Nenous remains committed to his goal, and continues to recreate iconic pieces. He’s garnered international attention for his work, even landing a feature on CNN. He says his goal is to rebuild Nineveh. “Everyone is born with a purpose. I think this is mine,” he says.

Check out our full interview with Nenous below.

AUAF Awards $5,000 Scholarship to Artist Nenous Thabet

Through community grants and scholarships, the AUAF supports Assyrian students across the globe gain the support and education they need to help shape our community's future. We were proud to award a $5,000 scholarship to Nenous Thabet as he pursues artistic studies in Iraq. Nenous is a young artist living in Bakhdida, a town in Iraq's Nineveh Plain. His hometown was destroyed by ISIS, but his family has since returned and has vowed to rebuild.

Posted by Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation on Wednesday, December 13, 2017