Al Said, Shakir Hassan (1925–2004) By Mejcher-Atassi, Sonja
Al Said was a prolific and influential artist. He was a founding member of the Baghdad Group for Modern Art (Jama’at Baghdad lil-fann al-hadith) in 1951, together with Jewad Selim and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra; and later, in 1971, of the One Dimension Group (al-Bu’d al-wahid). He wrote art manifestos for both groups in addition to his contemplative manifesto (al-bayan al-ta’ammuli), published in the cultural supplement of the Iraqi daily al-Jumhuriyya in 1966. The manifesto he wrote for the Baghdad Group for Modern Art was the first art manifesto of its kind in Iraq. It was read out at the group’s inaugural exhibition at the Museum of Ancient Costumes in Baghdad—an event that is considered by some the true birth of Iraqi modern art. The manifesto gives voice to the group’s commitment to both heritage and modernity. Its emphasis on local character drew inspiration from Islamic art, namely al-Wasiti’s thirteenth-century miniature paintings, but also from popular culture, like carpet production, and from the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. This meant distancing itself from the previous course of modern art in the Arab world, which was perceived as following European models, and setting out to ground modern art more firmly in a local context. It marked a reorientation in art that coincided with radical political change and the growth of Arab nationalism.