This exhibition contemplates the stream of disruptions and devastations that have taken place in Zainab Hikmet’s home country of Iraq, through transporting and exhibiting a historic self-portrait of a pioneer in Iraqi art, her great-grandfather, Mohammed Salih Zaki, on the 100-year anniversary of its making. Known as the ‘Sheikh of the artists’ Zaki’s self-portrait unconsciously speaks of war, migration and legacy, having been smuggled out of Baghdad following the war in the early 90’s.
The painting was taken to Hikmet’s family home in Auckland by her grandmother who had resorted to smuggling it out of Iraq (where his works are now considered national treasures) in near disrepair. It has since been restored.
Through compiling an accompanying publication, Hikmet aims to highlight the artistic history of her family from the position of a first-generation Iraqi immigrant—exploring this rich and historically problematic facet of Iraq’s history whilst giving this painting a platform in which to be seen.