Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi portrays human suffering and regional instability
Updated 28th April 2017
Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi portrays human suffering and regional instability
Widely acknowledged as a pioneer of modern Arab art, Dia Azzawi's work is highly-politicized, often reflecting pivotal events in the history of his region.
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These have included a series of paintings created in the '70s called "Human States," which sought to bring attention to the plight of the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq at that time, to "The Ugly Face of Occupation" (2009) -- a response to the Western coalition invasion of the country.
"You have to know the history of the Middle East to appreciate the art of Dia Azzawi," explained Sultan Al Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, to CNN.
"When I look at his art I feel a bit of sorrow because I know what is reflecting in his work."

Documenting history

Born in Baghdad in 1939, Azzawi has lived in London since 1976.
He initially studied archeology at Baghdad University, an experience that has continued to influence his work.
Dia Azzawi in Baghdad in 1972 Credit: courtesy Dia Azzawi
A founding member of the New Vision group in 1969, whose purpose was to unite fellow Arab artists ideologically.
Represented by galleries in Paris and London, his pieces have been exhibited internationally, including a recent landmark retrospective in Doha, Qatar.
"Dia Al-Azzawi: A Retrospective (From 1963 until tomorrow)" brought together more than 500 works, and is believed to be the largest ever solo exhibition of an Arab artist.
It is here that he considered three significant artworks from his career, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Inside the Middle East.
Dia Azzawi pictured in with his work "Mission of Destruction" at the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar (2016). Credit: OLYA MORVAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Speaking about the piece "Mission of Destruction" (2004-2007) which he regards as "the most important work of my history of art," he explained it was " a kind of protest after what happened to the destruction of the country after the 2003 occupation, the destruction of many institutions, colleges, museums in Iraq."
"I feel I have to do something which documents such an awful incident in my history," he said.

Until tomorrow

The retrospective by no means marks an end to his prolific career.
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"The title of the exhibition, 'until tomorrow,' this is what I feel because, for any artist, without challenging himself, you cannot be creative. If you want to stop being creative, it's death. I mean for me hopefully I will not be in this position.
"All I can say historically I hope somebody will do research about my work. He can find my contribution to push the Arab arts to wider steps or to open windows to be part of the international scenes in art."
Watch the video above to learn more about Dia Azzawi's most significant artworks.
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