Rafa Al Nasiri
Rafa Al Nasiri was an Iraqi painter, draughtsman, print-maker, educator and author whose works with a social and political message resonated with the Iraqi public in the mid-20th century. He was also very influential in encouraging young artists to take up print-making. Image Credit: Al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art at New York University Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi: Al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art at NYU Abu Dhabi launched on Wednesday (May 24, 2023) its inaugural Arab art archive publication, Story of Water and Fire.

The launch will be held at creative platform 421, and then again at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on Thursday (May 25, 2023).

May Muzzafar
Poet and art critic May Muzaffar.

Authored by poet and art critic May Muzaffar, this publication is a captivating account of the life of two prominent figures in the Iraqi art scene, Muzaffar and artist Rafa Al Nasiri.

Artistic milieu 

Through vivid descriptions and rarely-seen photographs, this book offers a glimpse into the social and artistic milieu of Baghdad from the 1960s to the 1990s, as well as the couple’s travels during this period and their years of exile in Amman and Manama.

The book is the English translation of the original Arabic version, and is co-published by Al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art and German book publisher, Hatje Cantz.

Over a year ago, Al Mawrid started digitising the Rafa Al Nasiri and May Muzaffar Collection to make their extensive contributions to the arts and literary fields more accessible. Their collection includes a variety of archival material featuring the working documents of Muzaffar and her correspondences with literary figures such as Nizar Qabbani.

The collection also contains a unique set of journals, hand-written in great detail and illustrated by Rafa Al Nasiri, which includes information on the personal and professional events of his life, as well as details on his art practice. Story of Water and Fire is one of the efforts to engage with the pedagogical and research goals of the center.

Open-access archive

“Through the translation of key documents in Al Mawrid’s Arab Art Archives, the center strives to make its collections accessible and support research based on primary documents written by the region’s artists and art critics,” said Salwa Mikdadi, director and principal investigator of al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art.

Al Mawrid is a research center and archive dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the visual arts of the Arab world. Through a range of activities that include fellowships, research projects, conferences and colloquia, as well as the construction of a unique open-access archive, al Mawrid aims to be a major resource for scholars, independent researchers, and for educational and art institutions.