Rafa Nasiri: Artist Books
Sonja Mejcher-Atassi and May Muzaffar
A comprehensive monograph dedicated to one of the most influential Arab artists of our time. Contemporary book art makes possible a myriad of encounters across vast spaces of time and geography as well as between the book and the reader. Intimate in nature, the latter forge new ways of seeing and reading the word and the world far from outside interference. Book art thus opens a space for privacy in a world that is marked by a lack of individual agency and liberty face to state control and surveillance. Rafa Nasiri’s book art stands out as a masterful example, as it draws on diverse traditions of book culture, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Arabic-Islamic world, China, and Europe and is, at the same time, part and parcel of contemporary artistic practices worldwide. Inspired by Arabic poetry, especially after the Iraq war of 2003, Nasiri has produced a number of limited editions on classical Arabic literature, from the Abbasid poet al-Mutanabbi to the Andalusian poet Ibn Zaydun and al-Hariri’s famous Maqamat as transmitted by the thirteenth-century Baghdadi calligrapher cum miniature painter al-Wasiti, as well as on modern Arabic literature, written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and others. Born in Tikrit, Iraq, Rafa Nasiri (1940-2013) studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad. In 1959, he went to study printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he was introduced to Chinese woodcut and watercolor techniques. He pursued his studies in printmaking at the Gravura in Lisbon, Portugal, returning to Baghdad to open the Graphic Arts Department at the Institute of Fine Arts in 1974 and Nasiri Graphic Studio in 1987. After the Gulf war of 1991, he left for Amman, continuing his life and work in exile. He taught at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, and Bahrain University in Manama, Bahrain.