‘Charcoal, Ink and a Donkey’ by Sadik Kwaish Alfraji at Galerie Tanit, Beirut

Iraqi-Dutch artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji showcases a new exhibition at Galerie Tanit, Beirut titled ‘Charcoal, Ink and a Donkey’ from April 11th until May 16th, 2024.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji-All Animals Are Equal, But..-2023-Charcoal and Ink on Canvas-113cmx270 cm

Throughout history, donkeys have been integral to human civilization, aiding in various tasks such as field ploughing, transportation, and laborious activities like construction and milling. As humanity’s oldest domesticated animal, the destinies of humans and donkeys have been deeply intertwined. However, despite their contributions, donkeys often endure misconceptions of being stubborn or unintelligent, leading to mistreatment and neglect. In his solo exhibition, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji seeks to rectify these perceptions by honouring and celebrating the significance of these animals.

Alfraji draws inspiration from two primary sources for this body of work: his upbringing in the impoverished suburb of Baghdad, Madinat al-Thawra, and George Orwell’s allegorical novel “Animal Farm” (1945). Seamlessly weaving together childhood memories of donkeys with Orwell’s portrayal of the donkey as a discerning observer, Alfraji’s large-scale canvases depict the animal from various perspectives, capturing its essence in ink and charcoal. These artworks present the donkey against stark backgrounds, highlighting its intrinsic nature beyond servitude to humans.

While conveying a sense of playfulness tinged with melancholy, Alfraji’s pieces also serve as social commentary, challenging traditional notions of donkey representation. Through Orwellian quotes and imagery depicting donkeys asserting their agency rather than being mere labourers, the artist prompts reflection on the politics of class and autonomy. In contrast, Alfraji’s smaller, rougher Indian ink drawings titled “A Donkey in my Studio” depict the animal burdened with heavy loads, creating a juxtaposition with the larger canvases.

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji-A Donkey In My Studio #10-2024-Ink on Hahnemühle Paper-25.4×25.4cm

One of the exhibition’s statements is conveyed through a stop-motion animation titled “A Donkey” and a canvas titled “A Selfie with C. Orwell’s Donkey.” The animation portrays the donkey’s relentless forward motion, echoing themes of resilience and perseverance, while the canvas depicts the artist alongside a donkey, rejecting Orwell’s famous assertion of inequality among animals. Through these works, Alfraji underscores the camaraderie and mutual recognition between humans and animals, shedding light on the artist’s role as a witness and recorder of societal narratives.

Sadik Kwaish Alfarji-A Selfie With G. Orwell’s Donkey-2023-Charcoal and Ink on Canvas-115 cm x 115 cm

About Sadik Kwaish Alfraji

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (b. 1960, Baghdad) is a multimedia artist known for his work in drawing, painting, sculpture, and more. Initially influenced by expressionism, he began his art career in Baghdad in the 1980s, exploring concepts of existence. His art has been exhibited worldwide, including prestigious venues like Stedelijk Museum and the British Museum. Alfraji’s works reside in various private and public collections, such as the Stedelijk Museum and the British Museum. Currently based in the Netherlands, his pieces reflect a diverse range of influences and themes, contributing to his reputation as a significant contemporary artist.

Location: Galerie Tanit, Beirut

Dates: April 11 – May 16, 2024



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