Abu Dhabi: Dr Mazen Al Janabi is both a plastic surgeon and a talented artist, proving that it is possible to maintain a hobby and a demanding career.

Al Janabi, 37, never studied art, but pursued his hobby since he was 18 years old.

He was lucky to be mentored by his uncle, an amateur artist, and later by famous artists. The Iraqi national graduated from the School of Medicine in Iraq in 1989.

Presently, the surgeon works at the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) and says he enjoys his work.

"Art, my hobby, never interfered with my career as a surgeon. Both specialties are interrelated," he said.

"Art helps me in my profession since in surgery you must think of beauty and should also be able to imagine the end-result," he said. "Both require imagination."

His paintings are mostly surreal and romantic. His first three art exhibitions were held while he was studying at the University in Baghdad; including one at Al Rawaq, a well-known gallery in Baghdad.

He joined the Iraqi Association for Artists following his graduation.

Sad melody

The surgeon-painter exhibited his paintings in the UAE for the first time at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (ADCF) from October 21 to 31.

The exhibition was held under the patronage of Fares Al Yawar, the Iraqi Ambassador.

The exhibition is titled Horses of the Sad Melody. There is a story behind his artwork. "Back in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq, I was watching a programme on TV which showed two horses belonging to the presidential stables running around scared in the streets. One of the horses was hit by a car. I will never forget how beautiful that horse was and how sad I felt."

"These horses were a symbol of devastation and human despair. Everything good in our Iraqi civilisation was ruined. The horse was a symbol of purity being subjugated by greed."

Among his favourite paintings is the lion of Babylon, which he says represents fertility. A lioness has transformed into a woman and lies on the ground. She awaits her knight in shining armour. In front of her stands a horse that also waits for the knight's arrival.

"I am attached to my country. I left Baghdad in 1999, but it feels like 20 years away. I express my sorrow for what's going on there through my art. Meanwhile I try to help the Iraqi people as best as I can through my profession," he said.


Recently, Al Janabi helped a 9-year-old girl who had third degree burns all over her body.

"It was so serious that she was hospitalised for two years. A bomb fell on her house. She had lost four of her brothers.

"If you compare a canvas to operating on a patient, the artwork can be changed if you go wrong, but with a patient there is no return. Art helps me relax."

Al Janabi explained that finding time is often difficult, "If I devote my time to finishing one painting I can do it in 15 hours. The problem is I don't have time."