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December 2013


artBahrain mourns the passing of the Iraqi pioneer in printmaking

Posted December 8, 2013 by in



Rafa Al Nasiri, passed away on Saturday, December 7, 2013 in Amman Jordan, where he was living in exile. He was 73. Born in Tikrit, Iraq, he studied art at the Institute of Fine Arts- Baghdad: 1956 -1959 (painting), the Central Academy of Fine Arts- Beijing: 1959 - 1963 (graphic art) and the Gravura- Lisbon (Scholarship from The Gulbenkian Foundation) 1967 - 1969. He attended The International Summer Academy in Salzburg 1974 and 1975, and The Print Center in London: 1976, 1981, 1982 and 1989.

Rafa Al Nasiri, the pioneer of Iraqi printmaking, dedicated himself to teaching painting, graphic art and design in Iraq, Jordan, and in Bahrain from 1964 to 2003, in addition to lecturing on art in different Arab and world capitals. He had numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world.

Last November 11, he had his last solo exhibition at Jordan National gallery of Fine Arts entitled “Rafa Al Nasiri: 50 years retrospective.” It was attended by hundreds of guests including family, friends and students, who flew to Jordan for the occasion. The opening reception was broadcast ‘live’ in the internet and viewed by more than 3,000 people from all over the world who could not be there physically join the celebration of the Iraqi master’s art life.


In his last feature in artbahrain biannual print edition, Al Nasiri sends a thoughtful message to the new generation of Iraqi artists regarding the importance of innovation, artistic achievement and love for country:

Keep doing art for humanity.
Keep using your spirit, ideas, and skills
for creating good art.
Keep living in the beautiful moments of your time.
Keep loving your homeland.”
Rafa Al Nasiri, September 2013

Except taken from ab print and October/November 2013


In January 2011, Al Nasiri visited Bahrain and conducted a print workshop at the Bahrain Contemporary Art Centre attended by invited professional and amateur Bahraini artists in cooperation with the Bahrain Art Society and the Bahrain Contemporary Art Centre.

According to Al Nasiri, “Bahrain has the best artists in the GCC region. There are a lot of good talents waiting for an opportunity to do something special.” Al Nasiri’s intervention provided a transformative educational experience in graphic arts as he encouraged the participants to explore and experiment with a different art form.

“Given the limited time (one week) and humble materials, the 10 participants managed to produce exceptional work. It was a good start with promises of opportunity for the art community, “he added.

The highlight of the print workshop is the Graphic exhibition at Al Riwaq Art Space which opened on 16 January and of course, the presence of Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa yields one of the most delightful moments in the exhibition. The exhibition was the culmination of the print workshop by Rafa Al Nasiri. It broadened the definition of printmaking and encompassed the use of printed matter in combined-media works.

Excerpts from Al Riwaq Revitalising Art Community,source, February 2011


Al Nasiri once again returned to Bahrain this year on February 2013 for a solo exhibition entitled “Being in the Moment.” Organized in collaboration with the Bahrain Cancer Society (BCS), the exhibition opened on February 4th- World Cancer Day- and was one of many events organized by the BCS as a means to bring attention to and generate funds for the cause.


Held under the patronage of the prominent Patron of the Arts, HE Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the opening was also attended by Minister of Culture, HE Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa and brought dignitaries, ambassadors, art patrons and artists- people from all facets of Bahraini society- many of whom have been influenced by the artist over the years. Nasiri’s work, reflective of a sense of romantic ‘Arabism’, is easily relatable to many of his generation and is also in a sense, a melancholic prelude to the contemporary art of the region, in particular the Levant, an area so characterized by ongoing political, cultural and social transformation.

The exhibition displays a careful selection of works from four themes; ‘ Beside the River’, ‘Light From Darkness’, ‘Windows’ and ‘Bab Al Bahrain’ – on paper, photography, acrylic painting and prints.

Nasiri’s work speaks to generations about loss of homeland and a longing for a time that continues to exist through dreams and memories. In an era of rapid transformation, it comes as no surprise then that as the exhibition met the appreciation of many Bahraini collectors, many of whom have in a sense, projected a claim on Nasiri’s work as if it was theirs before it even existed; as if the memory that the work imparts was something that they had also once lived. And when asked, “why do you think your work is relevant and relatable to so many?” Nasiri thoughtfully replies, “you can find your own answers, in time.”

Excerpts from Rafa Al Nasiri Being in the Moment written by Yasmin Sharabi, Kingdom of Bahrain, 2013. Source, March 2013


Al Nasiri is a unique soul, a kind and thoughtful person and a great artist. He will be greatly missed by his friends in Bahrain. He is survived by his loving wife, May Muzaffar, an outstanding Iraqi art critic and poetess.

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