BAGHDAD: Iraqi artist Wijdan al-Majed is transforming Baghdad’s concrete jungle into a colour-filled city with murals depicting well-known figures from the war-scarred country and abroad.
Perched on a scaffold at a busy intersection, the 49-year-old artist and instructor at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts is adding final touches to a mural dedicated to celebrated Iraqi poet Muzzafar al-Nawab.
Peasant women in traditional dress adorn the background of the mural, commissioned by Baghdad mayor Alaa Maan.
He launched the initiative nine months ago in a bid to “bring beauty to the city and move art to the streets to get rid of the grey and dusty colours” that hang over Baghdad.
Majed, an artist more accustomed to exhibiting her work in the cosy and reflective settings of galleries, at first had helpers to create the street art. But she has turned to working alone, undaunted by the “huge challenges” she faces as a woman in a largely conservative, male-dominated society.
“Sometimes I work late into the night,” said Majed, wearing jeans and shoes splattered with paint.
“The street is scary at night, and it’s not easy for a woman to be out so late,” she said.
Motorists and passers-by often slow down or stop to watch the woman on her scaffold, paintbrush in hand and hard at work. Disparaging comments are sometimes fired her way.
“I learn to live with it and ignore them,” she said.
“People have become used to seeing a woman paint. Iraqi society has accepted me.” Many Iraqis are happily surprised by the transformation of their capital.
Published in Dawn,May 3rd, 2022