Hanaa Malallah Papers

Artist Biography

Hanaa Malallah (b. 1958, Nasiriyya, Iraq) is an artist, scholar, and educator currently residing in London. She pursued her studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad and subsequently completed her MA and PhD at the University of Baghdad. In her doctoral research, she pioneered a semiotic perspective on art, culminating in her 2005 doctoral thesis. This thesis employed principles of logic derived from modern philosophy to analyze the art of ancient Mesopotamia.

At the end of 2006, Malallah departed Iraq and embarked on an artist residency at the Institut du monde Arabe in Paris. This was succeeded by her involvement in fellowships at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Chelsea College of Art in London. In addition to her artistic pursuits, she has also delivered lectures at the University of Baghdad and the Royal University for Women in Bahrain.

Image Courtesy of Widewalls Magazine

Since the early 1990s, Hanaa Malallah has been engaged in a contemplative exploration of destruction as an integral facet of the human condition. She approaches the materials she works with as discovered objects, which she deliberately distorts or mutilates in accordance with a concept she termed the 'ruins technique' in 2007. Her examination of destruction draws from her extensive studies in semiotics and the material culture of ancient Mesopotamia. Her more recent focus has shifted from physical objects to landscapes, where she has delved into the 'virtual' aspects of destruction. This includes the consideration of the temporal aspects of decay, the preservation of material, and the paradoxical emergence of invisibility within the visible realm. Her exploration of the virtual has more recently led her to investigate the relationship between spirituality and technology.

The Archival Collection

The Hanaa Malallah Papers within the Arab Art Archive encompass over 2,000 items from the artist’s personal exhibition files, sketches, writings, and illustrations, which she collected herself over the course of the 1980s and 1990s in Baghdad. The collection also includes a substantial amount of material related to Iraqi academic, writer, and critic Hatim al-Sakr (b. 1945, Baghdad): criticism published in newspapers, a notebook of handwritten poems, in addition to some bureaucratic ephemera.

The papers contain material documenting the artist’s work as an illustrator for the children’s magazine Majallati and the newspaper al-Jumhuriyya during the 1980s, and exhibition-related files spanning her first solo show in 1987 up to 2006 when she left Iraq. Another highlight of the collection is a set of journals, personal correspondence, and theoretical studies that Malallah’s mentor and friend, pioneer Iraqi artist Shakir Hassan Al Said (1925 – 2004) gifted her during the 1990s.

The papers include pen, pencil, and ink sketches by the artists focused on archaeological references, depictions of hoopoes, and self-portraits. Also included are some watercolor comic sketches. There are photographs of exhibitions and events, copies of artworks and portraits of Malallah, the majority of which were taken in the early 2000’s.

Digitized content will be made available to the public through the NYU Special Collections online repository and finding aid system in 2024.