Iraqi artist Naziha Selim celebrated with a Google Doodle

The artist was a pillar of Iraqi contemporary art and has been spotlighted by the UAE’s Barjeel Art Foundation

The Google Doodle on April 23, 2022, pays tribute to the Baghdadiya artist, in her own painting style. Photo: Google
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A pioneer of Iraqi art, and a fundamental figure in the Arab art story, Naziha Selim has been honoured with a Google Doodle.

The illustration on the search engine on Saturday comes exactly two years after she was spotlighted by the UAE’s Barjeel Art Foundation. It's designed as an ode to Selim's painting style, as well as a celebration of her long-standing contributions to the art world.

After she died in 2008 aged 81, former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said Selim was “the first Iraqi woman who anchored the pillars of Iraqi contemporary art “.

Naziha Selim in Baghdad in the early 1950s. Photo: Faisel Laibi Sahi

Her work depicted rural life in her homeland through vibrant colours and bold brushstrokes, interlaced with powerful symbolism.

Born in Turkey in 1927, Selim inherited creative genes from both her parents — her father was a painter and her mother a skilled embroidery artist.

Selim's story is often eclipsed by that of her famous older brother, Jawad Selim, considered one of Iraq’s most important modern sculptors, but in 2020, she was spotlighted by the Barjeel Art Foundation in their collection of female artists and her work can be seen at the Sharjah Art Museum.

A graduate of the Baghdad Institute of Fine Arts, Selim was one of the first women to be awarded a scholarship to continue her learning at Paris’s renowned Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts.

Untitled, 1996, oil on canvas by Naziha Selim, from the private collection of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. Photo: Ismail Noor

There, she focused in fresco and mural painting while immersing herself in art and culture.

Returning to Baghdad to work at the Institute of Fine Arts, Selim was active in Iraq’s arts community and was one of the founding members of Al-Ruwwad, a community of artists that incorporate European art techniques into the Iraqi aesthetic.

Her students thought of her as a Baghdadiya — a lady of Baghdad — through and through. “She really wanted us to achieve and though her reserve sometimes mistook her for being cold, she had a wicked sense of humour and loved playing jokes on people,” said Faisel Laibi Sahi, who was a student of the late artist.

Painter, professor and one of the most influential artists in Iraq’s contemporary art scene, Selim demonstrated an interest in the stylistic experiments of Baghdadi painting, as well as portraiture, Baghdadi street scenes and mosques, and subjects relating to Iraqi women.

Selim is also a published author, with her book Iraq: Contemporary Art, seen as an important resource for the early development of the country’s modern art movement.

Updated: April 23, 2022, 5:56 AM