Ala Bashir

This evening, I had the opportunity to meet in Leicester Dr. Ala Bashir and my friend Aisha, a young Qatari artist.


Key drawing on wall, Ala Bashir, 2008; photo by Nakhla50 CC (


This evening, I had the opportunity to meet in Leicester Dr. Ala Bashir and Aisha, a young Qatari artist. It was insightful to hear his views on the importance of contemporary young Middle Eastern female artists and their honesty in work and intellectual and critical approach; on the problematic ways that the term ‘Islamic Art’ has been used in the UK and elsewhere as a container term (grouping anything and everything together that is either produced by Muslim artists, artists living in or having descendants from a predominantly Muslim or Arab country, even when they might or might not be Muslim themselves and their subject matter has nothing to do with Islam, and art inspired by ‘Islamic art’ as defined before) especially as nobody would think to discuss most historical and contemporary art from Western Europe under a heading like ‘Christian Art’; and on some of his own work. We had an interesting discussion on exhibition ideas that I have been chewing on over the last few years and which might widen interest in the museum to more people in Leicester, including an exhibition around the theme of veiling beyond the boundaries of religion and culture; and exhibition that rather asks questions and tries to be eye-opening, grouping photos of many veiling practices in unexpected ways around the heading protection, religion, identity, and fashion.

Ala Bashir is represented in many national museums worldwide, and won national and international prizes. He is a painter, surgeon and writer. According to Professor Douglas Tallack, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) and Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Law at the University of Leicester, “Ala Bashir is, in my view and many others, Iraq’s greatest living artist. That he also has an international reputation as a surgeon is astonishing; as is the fact that he has lived through the upheaval and sheer danger of Iraq’s history, and produced some memorable art.”

In 2010, he had a solo exhibition ‘Memories of Keys’ at Embrace Arts, University of Leicester. The following is a recording Douglas Tallack leading a discussion between Ala Bashir and the public at the opening of this exhibition.



Stella Couloutbanis, acting Visual Art Manager at Embrace Arts at the time, commented in a press release on his work: “Ala Bashir is a remarkable artist who has worked under difficult circumstances and conditions; his paintings and drawings are now are a reminder of his past and show his emotional journey and struggle to come to terms with the life he escaped from. Embrace Arts is honoured and proud to be exhibiting his artwork. His work is beautifully composed and executed; his paintings are vibrant in subject matter, expressing his feelings for home and safety, and his line drawings are simplistic but are beautifully composed.”

In the UK, Ala Bashir is represented by Hay Hill Gallery, 35 Street London where his work is shown in group and solo exhibitions. His next solo exhibition in this gallery will be from 30 March to 2 May 2015.


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