Acclaimed Iraqi artist warns of \'scenario of destruction\'

Sunday 16/10/2016
Exhibition charts career spanning more than 50 years by politically conscious artist

DOHA - Iraqi artist Dia Al-Azzawi, who exhibits almost 550 of his works in Qatar this week, says his country faces a bleak future and the assault on Mosul is "a scenario of destruction".

"I am the cry, who will give voice to me?" showcases paintings, sculptures and drawings for the next six months across two Doha museums.

It is potentially the largest ever solo exhibition by an Arab artist and is the first major retrospective of Al-Azzawi's work.

The exhibition charts a career spanning more than 50 years by a politically conscious artist, and the division of work across two museums neatly represents two distinct phases of his career.

The exhibition at Doha's the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art highlights his interest in Iraqi folk figures and legends.

The second half, in the Al Riwaq gallery, charts the 77-year-old's more politicised work from the late 1960s onwards.

One major theme is the momentous political events which have engulfed the Middle East over the past few decades as well as the fate of his own nation, about which Baghdad-born Azzawi is steadfastly pessimistic.

"We have destruction, we have tragedy, sectarian mentality, faith mentality," he says of Iraq.

"All that is created by the interests of the West, I have no problem with that, but to support parties, Islamic parties, the mentality of Daesh (the Islamic State group), the mentality of ethnic cleansing -- it cannot be accepted."

Speaking on the eve of the launch of the battle for second city Mosul, Azzawi, asked if there is any reason for hope in Iraq, responds simply: "No, none at all. This is the scenario, the scenario of destruction."

A former officer in the Iraqi army, he left his homeland in 1976.

Now living in London, he has not been back to Iraq since 1980 and says he refuses to visit.

"It is two hours from here," he says. "I go back and I accept what's going on. I cannot accept."

He adds: "I am not saying Saddam (Hussein) was fantastic, no. But we have now 100 Saddams."

The exhibition is curated by Catherine David of Paris' Pompidou Centre and runs until April 2017.

Azzawi says it is "a privilege" to see much of his work once again.

"I haven't seen some of them for 30 or 40 years, certainly I can see my life in a way.

"It gives me a little bit of help to ask some questions whether I am right or not."

Azzawi said he with the growing global stature of Arab artists, he would like to hold a similar exhibition in London.