Entering the exhibition space, the visitor first encounters Iraqi artist Kadhim Hayder’s iconic work The Epic of the Martyr, based on a poem the artist wrote in 1965. The poem references the eighth century Battle of Karbala, which resulted in the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussein Ibn Ali – an event that is commemorated annually through public mourning rituals. The work references this significant moment of martyrdom in Islamic history as an allegory for the tumultuous and rapidly transforming political context of Iraq following the 1963 coup in which many suspected dissidents and political opponents were killed. In Kadhim Hayder’s painting, ten mythical white horses, their abstracted bodies collapsed together in grief, wail out to a bare nocturnal landscape. An isolated green horse turns its body away from the group, exiled under a blood red moon.
Text by Sarah Rogers and Mandy Merzaban
© Photo: Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, Photography by Capital D Studio
Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation. Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, 12 May 2018 - 31 May 2023. Curators: Salwa Mikdadi, Mandy Merzaban, Karim Sultan.