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The Libyan Cleaver: life of Burnley-based anti-Gaddafi artist celebrated with exhibition of his work

Alsatoor at his home in Burnley.
Alsatoor at his home in Burnley.
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A new exhibition celebrating the life and work of a Libyan political cartoonist who lived in Burnley and played an instrumental role in anti-Gaddafi movements from the early 1980s onwards is set to take place at the Pendle Heritage Centre this March.


Having moved to the UK in 1975 at the age of just 19 from his birthplace of Bengazi, Hasan Dhaimish eventually started a family in Burnley, living in the area for 35 years which saw him flourish as an artistic satirist under the pseudonym Alsatoor (meaning 'The Cleaver' in Arabic).

Eventually moving to the Middle East to cover the 2011 Libya Revolution for a Libyan television station from Qatar, Hasan headed back to the North West for a year in 2014 before departing once again, moving out to Jordan for 12 months prior to his death at the age of 60 in 2016.

"My dad was a very charismatic individual who prided himself on his unorthodox art and politics," said Hasan's son Sherif ahead of the exhibition, which is taking place from the 23rd of March to the 2nd of April. "He was very strong and outspoken and incredibly intelligent; he was a true artist and gent.

Having met his wife, Karen Waddington, in Burnley, the couple's three children - Hanna (24), Sherif (29), Zahra (33) - were all born at Burnley General Hospital. And as Hasan worked jobs in nightclubs and kebab houses in the town, and even waiting tables at Carlo's in Colne, his inner artist was fuelled like never before by the panoramic landscapes of Pendle.

It was on trip to London, however, when Hasan spotted an Arabic newspaper by the Libyan Opposition outside Earl's Court, that he felt the political tug of 1980s Libya. He wrote to the paper, asking to contribute his political cartoons, and with that Alsatoor was born.

The Cleaver: Alsatoor was part of the vehement anti-Gaddafi movement for more than 20 years.

The Cleaver: Alsatoor was part of the vehement anti-Gaddafi movement for more than 20 years.

"He was constantly thinking and drawing; he saw his duty as Alsatoor as working for the Libyan people," said Sherif.

With his acerbic career as Alsatoor taking off and the tumultuous political scene back home in Libya being as dangerous as it was for someone like Hasan, he was never able to return to his homeland and never saw his mother and father again as Bengazi became a "hotbed for political assassinations" in Sherif's words.

Firmly ingrained into life in Pendle, though, Hasan began a teaching career in Nelson and Colne College’s graphics department in 1995, where nobody had any clue that 'Has' was actually the infamous Alsatoor, anonymously mocking Gaddafi at the forefront of an international movement.

But as the years wore on, the purity of art started to become sullied by the political slant of Hasan's vocation. BAs a liberally-minded individual surrounded by more conservatively-oriented people in the Middle East, Hasan - who would paint as an "escape" - found little inspiration for his art away from his political work as Alsatoor started to become a burden.

Muse: Hasan was always inspired by the North West of England.

Muse: Hasan was always inspired by the North West of England.

Yearning to paint for his own sake under the blue panoramas of the Mediterranean sea or the moody bucolic Pendle hills, Sherif explained that "being in the Middle East didn't give [Hasan] much inspiration for his own art - his political art came as a second nature, but it has hard for him to find inspiration to come back to his painting.

"He got more inspiration from living in Pendle than when he was out [in the Middle East]," Sherif added. "I think his creative side got eaten up a little bit by the politics, but he saw it as his duty, which was a telling sign of how selfless he was."

Hasan Dhaimish 1955-2016.

Hasan Dhaimish 1955-2016.