Creative and Inspiring Women Artists of Iraq Pt. 2

Their works have given us life, joy, sadness, and nostalgia. We all have learnt and felt their stories through their artworks and they will forever be eternal in our memories.

Circular Baghdad, Widad AL-ORFALI, 1999, From the collection of: Ibrahimi Collection
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Circular Baghdad (1999) by Widad AL-ORFALIIbrahimi Collection

Widad AL-ORFALI (1929)

Artist Widad Makki Abdul Rahman Al-Orfali was born in 1929 into a wealthy family of Arab origins, descended from the Urfa historic region, which imbued traditional Baghdadi life with its luxurious origins.

She was born and lived in a special and exceptional environment that encouraged creativity, excellence, and supported innovation. 

She was taught art by artists Khaled Al-Jadir, Faik Hassan, Ata Sabri, Faraj Abbo, Jewad Selim and many more. Some of her colleagues were artists Kadhim Haider and  Mohamed Muhraddin.

Circular Baghdad

Oil on Canvas, Dated 1999

Rosy Dream (1991) by Widad AL-ORFALIIbrahimi Collection

Her characters, colors and configurations were derived from her Baghdadi environment, which she could not go far from in her dreams.

She repeated her second attempts to perform in 1957 in the Mansour club, where the bourgeoisie of Baghdad met and she frequently attend such exhibitions where the name “Widad” became in the connoisseur’s memory. 

She joined a group of young artists whose works were rejected and organized, with the support of the Royal Palace, the so-called ‘Exhibition of Refusals’ in the same year. 

Widad’s work was remarkable and she was fortunate enough to have caught the king’s eye in one of her works, acquiring it for his private collection.

Rosy Dream

Oil on Canvas, Dated 1991

Blue Oriental City (1995) by Widad AL-ORFALIIbrahimi Collection

An artist and social activist looking for something new, she was driven by her ambition and desire to add value to her community and to provide the best of her work. She held several jobs when she was a single young woman devoted to her ambition and vision.

In 1961, Widad married a young diplomat who would take her to new cities and open doors for her that were not even in her dreams. This marriage would also expose her to challenges that were not in her mind.

In 1973, while on a tourist trip with her family to Andalusia, Widad was on a date with a historic leap in her artistic career. She woke up to a dream.

What she lost in Baghdad she found in Granada, Seville and Toledo. There she found the daughter of Abbasid Baghdad and the ancient city of Edessa was hiding what was hidden from her unconsciousness;

concealed by her accumulated memory of childhood stories, dreams and historical readings. 

Blue Oriental City

Oil on Canvas, Dated 1995

Oriental Island (2005) by Widad AL-ORFALIIbrahimi Collection

Baghdad did not give her this “fiery spark”, but Andalusia did and it blew up a volcano of passion in her that will form the title of her career for the coming decades. 

The family returned to Baghdad and Widad had big dreams for her city and society, so the Orfali Gallery was established and opened in Mansour in 1983.

The gallery that will become the most famous, largest and richest in Baghdad, in which most of the artists of the sixties will have exhibited in. 

The artist is considered a pioneer in the plastic arts, with her interest in musical arts, organizing cultural events and managing an art gallery. She played a positive role in supporting the Iraqi plastic  movement in the eighties and nineties. 

In addition to her interests in  arts, fashion, social communication and organizing forums, she had a distinguished musical talent and produced her disc that consisted of complex compositions of oriental pieces from the Arab and Eastern musical heritage.

Oriental Island

Oil on Canvas, Dated 2005

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