A socially and politically committed artist, Dia Azzawi focuses on the human condition, history and politics. Azzawi’s work interrogates culture and mythology, contemporary wars and violence. Nourished by the history of Iraq — from Mesopotamian literature to contemporary politics — as well as by regional conflicts — including that of Palestine — Azzawi’s work is an artistic response to both the human capacity to build civilizations and to our power of destruction. Azzawi has played a foundational role in Iraqi art movements such as the New Vision Group and the One Dimension Group. He participated with Rafa Nasiri and Jawad Selim (1919–1961), among others, in multiple initiatives and exhibitions, including a Biennial project in Baghdad that established links with Egypt, Morocco and the rest of the Arab world. Azzawi traveled to Morocco in the early 1970s, where he exhibited his work in Casablanca and Rabat. He has also produced books in collaboration with poets Mahmoud Darwich, Adonis and Mohammed Bennis, fostering the pan-Arab circulation of ideas and artistic perceptions throughout a world in conflict.
Traveling between past and present, Azzawi connects traditional themes to the experiences of modernity. Blessed Tigris is rooted in Iraqi culture, popular literature and mythology. Majnun and Layla was painted in Doha in the 1990s, when Azzawi and a group of exiled Iraqi artists were hosted in Qatar by Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani. Here, Azzawi creates a portrait of madness, possession and sense of helplessness that mimics what one may experience when forced to leave one’s homeland or witness its destruction. It is at once a love story that was never destined to be and a chronicle of the obsession with the impossible.