Renowned Iraqi artist laments Mosul's 'apocalypse'

Renowned Iraqi artist laments Mosul's 'apocalypse'
3 min read
20 October, 2016
As a major exhibition of his works opens in Doha, Qatar, internationally acclaimed artist Dia al-Azzawi says there is "no hope" for his homeland.
Dia al-Azzawi says he refuses to return to his homeland [Getty]
For Iraqis, the Battle for Mosul for is more than a military exercise to expel Islamic State extremists from their homeland.

If victorious, Iraqis hold hopes for a new chapter in the history of the country, after 13 years of sectarian violence and civil strife.

But Dia al-Azzawi, one of Iraq's most influential living artists, 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."

Asked if there is any reason for hope in Iraq, he responds simply: "No, none at all. This is the scenario, the scenario of destruction."

Internationally-renowned Azzawi was speaking at the launch of a retrospective of his work in Qatar.

The exhibition, I am the cry, who will give voice to me?, showcasing almost 500 pieces over two museum spaces, is the largest ever solo exhibition by an Arab artist.

A former officer in the Iraqi army, Baghdad-born Azzawi left his homeland in 1976.

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

"I go back and I accept what's going on. I cannot accept," he said.

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

The exhibition, running until April 2017, charts a career spanning more than five decades 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.

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," he said.

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