Rafa Nasiri

Being in the Moment, The Waterline, Bahrain Financial Harbour, 2013

The future does not exist; the past is irrelevant. All that we have is this moment.

“Being In the Moment” presented the work of the late Iraqi artist Rafa Nasiri as he explored his affinity towards the construct of ‘time’.

Despite having lived away from his native Iraq for many years, Rafa felt a deep and unwavering connection to the land of his forefathers. Owing to his physical disconnect from his country, he felt as if his identity ‘existed’ neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’ but rather in an overlap between his past and his present. This awareness encouraged Rafa to question the tangibility of ‘time’, whereby his work materialised as a yearning to depict that sensibility; where the past and present, then and now, here and there, occur simultaneously in one moment.

Greatly inspired by the writings of poets such as Mahmood Darwish, Al Jawahiri, Etel Adnan and May Muzaffar, their philosophy reverberates throughout his work. The Arabic characters he often employs are both a prelude to their poetic language as well as a means to experiment with form. Furthermore, having lived in Beijing where he studied the technique of Chinese painting and printmaking, Rafa was greatly inspired by the technique and philosophy of his teachers there, which in many ways reflected the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence and eternality.

Being in the Moment was held in association with the Bahrain Cancer Society.


Born in 1940, Rafa studied painting and printmaking in Baghdad, Beijing and Lisbon. Since 1963, he held over 33 solo exhibitions in the Middle East, Europe and the Far East and participated in numerous group exhibitions and international biennales around the world. Nasiri was awarded the First Prize at the Baghdad International Festival of Art (1986); the Honors Prize at the 4th International Graphics Biennale, Fredrickstad, Norway (1978); the Jury Prize at the International Painting Exhibition, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (1977); and the Honors Prize at the International Summer Academy, Salzburg, Austria (1974). Nasiri published two books, in Arabic: Contemporary Graphic Art (1997) and Horizons and Mirrors: Essays on Plastic Art (2005). In 2010, a book about the artist entitled, Rafa al-Nasiri: His Life & Art, co-authored by Sabah Al Nassiri and May Muzafar, was published in Amman.