AZZAWI, SABRA AND SHATILA.
Exhibition from April 11 to September 16. 2018.
Musée. Institut du monde arabe, Paris.
On 10 April 2018, The Institut du monde arabe inaugurated its new exhibition space at the entrance of its Museum, with a display of the group of prints We are not seen but Corpses. The Sabra and Shatila Massacres, one of Dia Al-Azzawi’s historical and seminal works, and 18 silkscreen prints from the The Body’s Anthem. Poems illustrated for Tall al-Zaatar.
Dia Al-Azzawi was deeply moved in September 1982 by the massacre of civilian Palestinians in the camps of Sabra and Shatila. The Iraqi artist had first started drawing in his studio in London the polyptych entitled The Sabra and Shatila Massacres (1982-83), mixed media on paper laid down on canvas, 300 x 750 cm, in the collections of the London Tate Modern since 2012. As often was the case, he took his inspiration from photographs of the massacre published by the media and international newspapers.
A few months later, in January 1983, he was inspired by Four hours in Chatila, a report that was written on the spot by the French writer Jean Genet, who has just reached Beirut with Leïla Shahid and who had visited the Palestinian camps the day after the massacres and it would be the source of inspiration for the images of nine original prints (eight etchings and one lithograph, 100 x 75 cm.) that he would publish in a portfolio with a title page and a page taken from Jean Genet’s text, in a trilingual edition: We are not seen but Corpses. The Sabra and Shatila Massacres - Lâ nara illa juthathan - Nous ne voyons que des cadavres, London, 1983.
« With Guernica, Picasso instigated a turning-point in my art and in all the history of art, he succeeded in inventing symbols that are simple and expressive, historical and universal, a style fit to our human and moral values of rejecting any use of violence against civilians, that cannot be justified by any ideology or political regime. ». (Dia Al-Azzawi, 21.01.2018. Translated from Arabic by Claude Lemand)
Ever since he was a student, Azzawi was committed to supporting the Palestinian people in its struggle for survival and in its battle to gain back it homeland. Since Black September, Dia Al-Azzawi has taken the habit to draw whilst listening to the stories recorded by witnesses of the events or to Mahmoud Darwish’s poems being recited by the poet himself.
In 1976, he realized around forty drawings on the siege and fall of the Tall al-Zaatar camp, situated on a hill overlooking Beirut. In January 1979, he published a portfolio of 16 silkscreen prints The Body’s Anthem. Poems illustrated for Tall al-Zaatar. - Al-Nashid Al-Jasadi.- Hymne du Corps. This portfolio was exhibited in Rabat and then in december in Baghdad. Dia Al-Azzawi published also a book that includes poems by Mahmoud Darwish, Tawfiq al-Sayegh and Tahar Ben Jelloun, in a trilingual edition, illustrated with the etchings inspired from these poems and with a selection of drawings of 1976.
Sabra and Shatila Massacres was exhibited in 1983 in Kuwait. In 2003, for the first time in the West, the Claude Lemand gallery exhibited this polyptych with the nine prints from the 1983 portfolio, the 1976 drawings on Tall al-Zaatar and the 1979 portfolio of the 16 silkscreen prints at the Cité du Livre of Aix-en-Provence, that held a Tribute to Mahmoud Darwish. The poet had requested to be surrounded by the works of Dia Al-Azzawi and Rachid Koraichi. Mahmoud Darwish had read out his poems in Arabic and his translator and friend Elias Sanbar had given the French, a recital of two voices in a perfect harmony. All these works were exhibited again in the Doha double retrospective in 2016-2017.
Collection Claude & France Lemand.
Translated from French by Valérie Didier Hess.
PORTFOLIO. Dia Al-Azzawi, The Body’s Anthem, London, 1979. Portfolio of 16 silkscreens on paper, 65 x 65 cm. Collection Claude & France Lemand. Photo © Dia Al-Azzawi. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.
PORTFOLIO. Dia Al-Azzawi, We are not seen but Corpses. The Sabra and Shatila Massacres, London, 1983. Portfolio of 8 etchings and 1 lithography on paper, 100 x 75 cm. Collection Claude & France Lemand. Photo © Dia Al-Azzawi. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.