The Persistence of the Image: Dhākira Hurra in Dia Azzawi’s Drawings on the Massacre of Tel al-Zaatar

This article examines the memory-image in a set of drawings produced by the Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi on the massacre of the Palestinian refugee camp, Tel al-Zaatar, during the Lebanese civil war. It traces the development of this memory-image in Iraq in the 1960s, within a paradigm of the modern artwork established by the work of the artist Kadhim Haidar. Generalizing in modern art a mode of allegory from the poetic tradition of the husayniyyat, that paradigm introduced a philosophy of history in which the past was interpreted as a tradition of tragic forms that could be revived in painting as allegories for articulating the experience of contemporary political violence. Within that philosophy of history, Azzawi drew from the epic, Gilgamesh, a formula for representing injustice, one where a victim is emplotted in a narrative of struggle, such that the forms of the victim double as forms of the aggression from which he suffers. This formula comprised the method of representation in Azzawi’s drawings on the massacre at Tel al-Zaatar and in his work throughout the 1970s.

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