Dia Azzawi

Poetry and folkloric memory drawn from ancient and contemporary Iraqi and Arab histories resonate in the artwork of internationally renowned Dia Al Azzawi. Azzawi’s acute understanding of antiquity and cultural heritage is evident in paintings, sculptures and prints that capture historical moments, often on a monumental scale. The artist’s awareness and sensitivity to representations of human suffering and turmoil carry through his work, as does his attempt to interlace space and time to demonstrate the eternal solidarity between different cultures and civilisations. In Masks of the Abyss, (1966) Azzawi embedded symbols of human form, including a hand and a masked face, against deep and dark tones of black and gray.

The artist, who received degrees in archaeology from the University of Baghdad in 1962 and fine arts from Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1964, worked at Iraq’s Department of Antiquities until 1976, and has since resided in London. Founder of the pivotal Iraqi art group New Vision in 1969, he was also part of One Dimension founded by Shakir Hassan Al-Said. Among Azzawi’s renowned works is the iconic mural Sabra and Shatila (1982-1985), part of the Tate Modern collection, reflecting on the brutal massacre of Palestinian refugees by the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia during the 1982 Israeli invasion.