Saad Hindal has officially closed the door on a life without freedom in a war-torn homeland.
And he painted a lock to ensure it.
Hindal spent the better part of two months painting a mural that spans the entire front of the Concord Farm convenience store and gas station, an image that represents his emotional journey from the Middle East to Concord, complete with personal elements that include a replica of the actual door from his home in Iraq.
The door is locked up tight and stands just feet away from an image that symbolizes strength, freedom and peace, the hallmarks that have made Concord the place he and his family can finally feel comfortable.
"It feels like home now," Hindal said of Concord (through his son, Hassan, who was translating). "I came here to start a new page, to find freedom. All religions, they can live here. I don't feel like I'm from the village and poor. I feel accepted."
Hindal spent the first 38 years of his life in Iraq, until war made it unsafe for him and his family to remain there. They lived for four years in Egypt before moving to America, staying briefly in Chicago before setting up permanent residence in Concord thanks to the recommendation of a family friend.
Hindal's varied background included stints as a bricklayer prior to graduating from high school and as a set designer for film, television and theater just after graduation. He also did work in real estate and as an interior designer before the impact of war all around them forced the family to move from their home in Baghdad.
Hindal, an accomplished artist, wanted to find a way to commemorate his journey to Concord, so he spoke to Darrin Faraj, a friend who had purchased Concord Farm in June.
He proposed the mural to Faraj, who had been looking to rehabilitate the store's reputation in the community. Faraj said when he took over, the store was known "for being dirty, smelly and having expired products." He has since tried to focus on "distancing the store from the past" while building a strong relationship with the community, so when Hindal approached him, he jumped at the opportunity.
"I had been thinking about painting the outside in red," Faraj, who plans to change the store's name to Red and Gold to represent the "warmth and richness" of their own welcome to the Concord community, said. "Then Saad approached me with a sketch, and I thought, oh, that's so much better."
With the only request from Faraj being to include red and gold in the design, Hindal turned the mural from a vision into reality. He found many of the images he would ultimately use on the internet, printing them out and relying on them for inspiration.
Those images include a horse, which represents strength, and a dove, which represents peace. There is also a depiction of the Statue of Liberty and a muscled body with a head resembling the Old Man on the Mountain, "because I love New Hampshire," Hindal said.
Hindal began in November and worked on the mural every night for two months, receiving a great deal of assistance from Hassan, as well as Daniel Broussard. He would spend as much as four hours per night working on the detail, which includes a replica of a floor mat in front of the store's entrance and a small shelf containing the dove and some pieces of fruit.
The most personal touch for Hindal, though, is the door, a reminder of both his humble beginnings and his escape to freedom. He painted the sturdy lock and also surrounded the section with the names of people close to him, both in Iraq and in Concord.
"This part makes me feel like I am from Concord. People here, they come and add their name or tell me to add their name," Hindal said. "When I feel worried, I go there."
Others have gone, as well, and the positive feedback continues to flow in.
"It's better than I thought. It came out fantastic. I couldn't imagine it being better," Faraj said. "Every day I get comments about it, so the people seem to really like it."
Said Hindal: "I am happy. Every day I see people and they say we enjoy it and we like it."
Hindal has developed a great fondness for Concord - he said all the people he has met have been nice and want to help him - and the mural was his way of thanking those who have pitched in. He took no money for the project, and he spends most of his days painting at home and has given many of his works away to people he has met in the city.
The mural, ultimately, is for everybody.
"I wanted to give it like a gift to the people," Hindal said. "I hope every house in Concord can have one of my paintings in it, but I did this because if someone doesn't have a painting from me, they can look at the picture."