FB Artist’s Work Gifted to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-MalikiPresident Barack Obama gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, a painting by Arab American and DC area artist, Helen Zughaib, at the White House during his recent visit. As a gift between the two countries, her painting “Midnight Prayers” symbolizes the countries’ relations. Zughaib’s art work is currently on display at The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development in Washington, D.C. as well as at Finding Beauty In A Broken World: In the Spirit of Frida Kahlo exhibition that I juried at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Farm in Washington, DC (1632 U St NW or 202–483-8600).
For Zughaib, this is a notable development in her artistic career, yet it is not without precedent. Two years ago, one of her paintings, “Reconciliation,” was given to President George W. Bush by then Lebanese Parliamentarian (and current Prime Minister) Saad Hariri as an official gift from Lebanon.
Zughaib, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, said the piece Obama gave to Iraq is about the prospects for peace she sees in faith. Zughaib was inspired by the Muslim “call to prayer one hears in the Middle East.”
She added, “The beauty of the call to prayer, combined with the rich detail of intricate Islamic designs in blues and greens, symbolize the beauty and lushness of the Arab world. As always, it is a painting that reflects my hopes for peace and tranquility in that region.”
Zughaib helped curate the current exhibit at The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development. The exhibit is called “Gaza Conversations” and runs until September 4th. She helped put it together at the group’s Foggy Bottom-based facilities.
She said the exhibit “is meant to focus attention on the situation in Gaza.” There are three artists showcasing their work in the exhibit, which has drawn many visitors–further showing the artist’s increasing prominence.
Zughaib, like her art, has served as a bridge between nations. For instance, she served as United States Cultural Envoy to the West Bank, Palestine. She said, “My intention as an artist, especially after 9/11, is to further the dialogue between East and West, continue to try to understand each other and bring people together in conversation with the hope of mutual understanding, acceptance and respect.”