Half Life Naseer Shamma
Half Life by Oud Master Naseer Shamma
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Naseer Shamma, an internationally acclaimed Iraqi Oud musician and visual artist, presents his first solo show Half Life, which is currently being held at the Etihad Modern Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi. On view until the 8th of March, 2024, the exhibition displays more than 70 paintings (both new and old ones), capturing moments from Shamma’s past to the present.

According to Shamma, who is a UNESCO Artist for Peace, an Ambassador of the Nonviolence International, as well as a Goodwill Ambassador of the IFRC and Iraqi Red Crescent, his art draws from his concern for humanity (particularly those who are suffering from famine, war, and natural disasters), among other things. Some of the exhibited paintings are executed in fiery colours, evoking mountainous tragedies and the aftermath of fires and ruins, while another art piece blends sandy tones with bright turquoise and thus makes viewers think about a desert landscape with a clear blue sky.

Naseer Shamma, Half Life (installation view). Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi, 2024.
Photo: Leslie Pableo / The National.

To create his artworks, Shamma employs acrylic on canvas and one unusual ingredient: the sawdust of the oud produced during the manufacturing process of these musical instruments. He says that the sawdust is infused with colours and other mixtures. It is exactly what creates a textured 3D effect in his art pieces, inviting a spectator to examine depth and movement within the work. 

About Naseer Shamma

Naseer Shamma (b. 1963, Kut, Iraq), who started to study playing the oud when he was 12, graduated from the Institute of Music Studies (Baghdad) in 1987 and obtained a PhD in Musical Philosophy. He began to teach oud after three years at the academy while continuing his studies. 

Naseer Shamma, Half Life (installation view). Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi, 2024.
Photo: Leslie Pableo / The National.

In the 1980s, the musician embarked on a journey to introduce his musical heritage to Europe, playing concerts in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK, and eventually gained international recognition as an Oud virtuoso. In 1999, he founded an educational establishment, The Arab Oud House. Here, he nurtures Oud students to attain expert proficiency, sharing his techniques and innovations to elevate the instrument’s prowess. First opened in Cairo, the institute’s influence expanded to Abu Dhabi (2008), Alexandria (2011), Baghdad (2018), Khartoum, Riyadh, and Mosul.

Shamma has been granted a plethora of prestigious awards, such as the titles of Best Artist in Iraq (1994), the Royal British Academy Award (1998), and the Rotterdam Arab Festival Award, to mention a few. In 2012, he received the International Gusi Peace Prize.

To get more information about Naseer Shamma’s solo exhibition, please visit the official website of the Etihad Modern Art Gallery.

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