Immersed in Italian art and culture

About the Artist

Iraqi artist Rasmi al-Khafaji was born in Diwaniah in 1945. He graduated from the department of painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and also holds a Diploma of Fine Arts in painting from Florence, Italy.

Rasmi organized and participated in a number of exhibitions inside Iraq until 1977, the year when he left his home country.

Today, he lives and works in Italy.

Rasmi has been writing letters to his mother in Iraq for more than twenty years, but they never reached her. As an artist and a wanted political activist, Rasmi set off for Italy with dreams to end up at a reclusive locale in Florence.

Rasmi al-Khafaji: I work here and I think here. I get nostalgic here too.

Though life treated him harshly, Rasmi never stopped being a dreamer. He looked for new tools that could be applied in painting. He had the skill, knowledge and perseverance.

Rasmi al-Khafaji: The European fine art trends had an impact on my art career.

Oil painting was my choice.

I have quit all techniques now and moved to black and white.

Nothing happens by chance. Technique is a mirror of the artist’s inner prowess.

Rasmi had two memories as he recalls, the first was Italian and the second Iraqi. The latter took him back in time to his mother, who used to make toys for him out of the mud from Euphrates.

Rasmi al-Khafaji: I created a Venus statuette and delivered it on a horseback to my school.

The Venus statuette represented Rasmi’s attempt to liberate himself from his memories of Iraq. He later moved this piece to Napoli Museum, becoming the first Arab artist to have work displayed in such a prestigious museum. A video clip made by him about his masterpiece has earned him many outstanding awards against stiff competition from more than three hundred artists from all over the world.

Though his Iraqi roots were evident, Rasmi was able to merge with the fabric of Italian society. Thanks to his spirit of freedom and knowledge, he has left an impression on his Italian students who have learnt a lot from him.