Who was Maliheh Afnan? Google Doodle celebrates life of Palestinian artist

The painter, who died in 2016, was one of the most significant Middle Eastern artists of the 20th century

Palestinian artist Maliheh Afnan has been celebrated with a Google Doodle. Courtesy Google
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The life of Palestinian artist Maliheh Afnan has been celebrated with a special Google Doodle.

Those using the search engine in the Mena region on Monday will see an illustration of the Palestinian-born artist, who died in 2016.

'Of Numbers' by Maliheh Afnan. Courtesy Maliheh Afnan and Lawrie Shabibi

Afnan is widely regarded among the most significant Middle Eastern artists of the 20th century. Her signature “written paintings” explore themes of displacement and exile, as well as conflicts in the region and her cultural heritage.

Born in Haifa, Palestine, on March 24, 1935, Afnan’s family sought refuge in Beirut in 1949. From a young age, she was fascinated with written language and developed her skills in calligraphy. In 1956, she moved to the US to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.

Afnan graduated in 1962 with a Master’s in Fine Art, during which her style of infusing Arabic and Persian script into her work caught the attention of calligraphy artist Mark Tobey, who went on to become her mentor. He helped to facilitate Afnan's first solo exhibition, in 1971, which sparked the beginning of her 50-year career as an artist.

She returned to Beirut in the 1970s, before moving to Paris and eventually London, where she died in 2016 at the age of 81.

Her works can be found in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as numerous museums and galleries across the Middle East and Europe.

The artist is being celebrated on Monday to mark a year to the day since an exhibition celebrating her work, entitled The Symmetry of Fragility, ended at The Institute of Contemporary Arts in Milan.

What are Google Doodles?

Google Doodles feature sporadically throughout the year, transforming Google’s traditional logo into an animation to pay tribute to an important figure or moment in history. The doodles can also mark seasonal or celebratory events, such as International Women's Day.

Click through our gallery below to see other regional Google Doodles:

Updated: July 05, 2021, 4:27 AM