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Dalloul Art Foundation

MOHAMED GHANI HIKMAT, Iraq (1929 - 2011)


Written by Mysa Kafil-Hussain Born in 1929 in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad, Mohammed Ghani Hikmat spent his youth molding objects with clay he would find in and around his neighborhood.[1]...

Written by Mysa Kafil-Hussain

Born in 1929 in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad, Mohammed Ghani Hikmat spent his youth molding objects with clay he would find in and around his neighborhood.[1] This early curiosity and creative flair would then flourish into an artistic vision and faithful commitment to his country, making him one of the most important artists of his generation. Responsible for a great number of key public monuments, Ghani’s work has come to define the landscape of Baghdad.

Ghani joined the Institute of Fine Arts, graduating in 1953. That same year he joined the Baghdad Modern Art Group, a collective set up by Shakir Hassan Al Said and Jewad Selim, the latter of who had taught Ghani at the Institute. The group’s objective was finding inspiration in Iraq’s traditions, using this inspiration in modern art to create a unique artistic language.[2] Abbasid-era manuscripts, Islamic motifs, and Sumerian and Babylonian monuments informed much of their innovative compositions, influencing Ghani’s to marry modern sculpture with his rich heritage.

In the mid-1950s, Ghani traveled to Italy to study at Rome’s Accademia di Belle Arti, graduating in 1959, and then joining the Instituto di Zaka in Florence, where he obtained a diploma in bronze casting in 1961. Rome was a defining period for Ghani, allowing him to acquire extensive knowledge of working with bronze and marble, with Italian critics lauding his skills and the foreign, classical roots of his distinct style. Ghani was then commissioned to produce eighteen wooden panels for the doors of a church in Testa di Lepre, near Rome, making him the first Muslim sculptor to produce work for the Catholic Church.[3]  

"I studied and trained in the hands of old professors of age and experience, and I learned from them to respect the clay, and to respect time….it was a wonderful city full of arts, and its people are artists. Rome taught me not to make a statue of a face or a body, but it taught me how to respect my work. ”[4] Mohammed Ghani Hikmat, 2003

Whilst in Italy, he also helped to cast the large bronze figures for the Nasb al-Hurriyah (Freedom Monument),[5] fulfilling the vision of its designer, Jewad Selim, Ghani’s former teacher who he greatly admired. Selim sadly died before its completion, leaving Ghani to finish the project alongside Selim’s wife, Lorna, before its inauguration in Baghdad in 1961. On his return to Baghdad, Ghani encountered a new Iraq, having just been through years of political upheaval, creating both instability and inspiration for artists. He then began teaching sculpture at the Institute of Fine Arts, the Academy of Fine Arts and in the Architecture department at the University of Baghdad.[6] He joined the az-Zawiya (The Angle) group in 1967, a collective founded by Faeq Hassan focusing on socio-political themes, with members including Ismail Fattah and Kadhim Haydar. That same year, he created an untitled wooden sculpture resembling a decorative panel (in the DAF Collection), beautifully carved with abstract figural shapes, which simultaneously appear both human and calligraphic.

From the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Ghani was commissioned to create public monuments, the majority of which related to Iraqi cultural heritage. These included Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1969), Hammurabi (1969), Shahrayar and Shahrazad (1971), Kahramana (1971), Al-Mutanabbi (1977); all widely celebrated, becoming recognisable representations of Baghdad for many decades.[7]Consistently inspired by both pre-Islamic and medieval Iraqi heritage, Ghani’s work developed but retained these folkloric elements and familiar cultural references. In his 1976 wooden sculpture, Seller of Erk Sous (in the DAF Collection), we see his interest in local heritage displayed on a smaller scale, depicting a traditional street vendor selling “Erk Sous”, a liquorice-based cold drink popular in the Middle East.

Ghani’s international opportunities increased in the 1980s, including the production of a wooden gate for UNICEF in Paris.[8] However, his focus was always Iraq, and with the rise of Saddam Hussein, artistic propaganda became a necessity for the government. The Arch of Victory, initially a project of Khalid al-Rahal (who died in 1987), and was completed by Ghani,[9] becoming a symbol of Saddam’s strength. This period is also most likely when he produced a series of small, abstract wooden statues, many of which are in the DAF Collection, all thought to represent the people of Iraq, and especially referencing women in traditional abayas (cloaks) and the shapes of local gravestones.

Ghani stayed in Iraq until 2003, leaving for Jordan just before the invasion. He soon returned but saw Baghdad in ruins: his monuments were defaced and many other works were stolen from both his studio and during the looting of the museums. Determined to protect what was left and to restore what was taken, Ghani formed a committee to recover stolen works, with over 100 artworks being safely returned.[10] Ghani left Iraq again, only to return in 2010 when the Mayor of Baghdad commissioned him to produce a series of monuments. Thrilled to be creating work for his beloved Baghdad again, he began work on four new sculptures.[11] Unfortunately, Ghani passed away in 2011 at the age of 82, and never saw these monuments come to life. Completed by his son, they are now part of the wide array of quintessentially Iraqi monuments Ghani filled his city with. Around the world, the sculptures of Mohammed Ghani Hikmat have become synonymous with Baghdad, with its rich cultural heritage embedded in Ghani’s delicately crafted bronze, marble and wood, allowing his legacy and his love for Baghdad to live on through his work.  

[1] "محمد غني حكمت..حكاية أشهر نحات عراقي في ذكرى رحيله"., 2019.محمد-غنى-حكمت-حكاية-أشهر-نحات-عراقى-فى-ذكرى-رحيله/4414080  

[2] Nada Shabout, 2011. “Farewell Mohammad Ghani Hikmat”, In

[3] Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, 1979. “From Miniature to Monument: The Creative Quest of Mohammed Ghani”, In UR Magazine, No. 5: Page 32

[4] "سيرة حياة النحات العراقي محمد غني حكمت". In, 2011:

[5] Jabra, 1979: Page 32

[6] Tiffany Floyd, n.d.. “Mohammed Ghani Hikmet”. In   

[7] Shabout, 2011

[8] Ibrahimi Collection: “Mohammad Ghani Hikmat”. In, 2018:

[9] Bonhams: “Mohammed Ghani Hikmat – Bab El Gharbaa (Gateway to the West)” (From Egypt’s Awakening and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, 18 April 2018, London):

[10] Shabout, 2011

[11] Floyd, n.d.


Floyd, Tiffany. “Mohammed Ghani Hikmet”. Accessed April 2020.    

Al-Haidari, Buland. “The Influence of Arab Culture on Contemporary Arab Artists”. UR Magazine, Special Issue on Contemporary Arab Art. Iraqi Cultural Centre, 1981.

Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim. “From Miniature to Monument: The Creative Quest of Mohammed Ghani”. UR Magazine, No. 5. Iraqi Cultural Centre, 1979: Pages 26-35

Jaireth, Subhash. “Baghdad will remain Baghdad': Mohammed Ghani Hikmat and his tales of the 'Thousand and one nights”. Meanjin, Vol. 73, No. 4. Meanjin Company Ltd, 2014

Nusair, Isis. “The Cultural Costs of the 2003 US-Led Invasion of Iraq: A Conversation with Art Historian Nada Shabout”. Feminist Studies 39, No. 1. Feminist Studies Inc., 2013.

Schmidt. Michael S. “Mohammed Ghani Hikmat, Iraqi Sculptor, Dies at 82”. The New York Times (online). September 21, 2011. Accessed April 27, 2020.

Shabout, Nada. “Farewell Mohammad Ghani Hikmat”. September 12, 2011. Accessed April 2020.

Al-Sharouni, Sobhi. “Egyptian and Iraqi Sculpture”. UR Magazine, Special Issue on Contemporary Arab Art. Iraqi Cultural Centre, 1981.

Bonhams: “Mohammed Ghani Hikmat – Bab El Gharbaa (Gateway to the West)” (From Egypt’s Awakening and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, 18 April 2018, London). 2018. Accessed April 2020.

"لقاء مع النحات العراقي محمد غني" (magazine article). November, 1965. “Modern Art Iraq Archive”, Accessed April 2020.

"جبرا إبراهيم جبرا يتحدث عن فن المحات عند محمد غني" (magazine article). Al-Amiloon fil-Naft. February, 1970. “Modern Art Iraq Archive”, Accessed April 2020.

Sculpture Irakienne Contemporaine, Centre Culturel Irakien, Paris, 1980 (exhibition catalogue). 1980.

"سيرة حياة النحات العراقي محمد غني حكمت" . September 17, 2011. Accessed April 2020. September 15, 2011. Accessed April 28, 2020. ."غني حكمت.. مدرسة فن النحت"
غني-حكمت-مدرسة-فن-النحت/2011/9/15/ September 12, 2019. Accessed "محمد غني حكمت..حكاية أشهر نحات عراقي في ذكرى رحيله" May 2020.محمد-غنى-حكمت-حكاية-أشهر-نحات-عراقى-فى-ذكرى-رحيله/4414080

Ibrahimi Collection: “Mohammad Ghani Hikmat”. October 2018. Accessed April 2020.


Selected Solo Exhibitions


Opening of Mohammed Ghani Gallery, Oman
Mohammed Ghani: Sculpture Art from Iraq, CAB Gallery - Cairo Amman Bank, Amman, Jordan


Al-Riwaq Gallery, Manama, Bahrain


Mohammed Ghani Hikmet: The Comprehensive Retrospective Exhibition, Saddam Arts Centre (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art), Baghdad, Iraq


Mohammed Ghani: Bronze Knockers and Handles, Orfali Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq
Mohammed Ghani Hikmet: The First Anniversary of the Orfali Art Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


M. Ghani: Exhibition of Bronze Maquettes, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, UK


Mohamed Ghani – Bronze Maquettes, Al-Riwaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


Mohammed Ghani, Baghdad, Iraq


Exhibitions in Rome and San Remo, Italy; Beirut, Lebanon; London, UK; Baghdad, Iraq

Selected Group Exhibitions


Crossing Generations: A Selection of Emirati and Arab Contemporary Art from the ADMAF Art Collection, US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Modernism and Iraq, Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, USA
Iraqi Art, Foresight32 Gallery, Amman, Jordan


Homage to Jawad Salim (Group exhibition with Dia al-Azzawi, Lorna Selim, Ismail Fattah & Nadhim Ramzi), Kufa Gallery, London, UK


Art for Humanity: The Second Baghdad International Festival of Art, Saddam Arts Centre (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art), Baghdad, Iraq


Sculpture Irakienne Contemporaine, Al-Wasiti Gallery - Centre Culturel Irakien, Paris, France


PLO Exhibition of Art for the Sake of Palestine, Beirut


Contemporary Iraqi Art, Tunis, Tunisia


First Arab Biennale, Baghdad, Iraq


Al-Wasiti Festival, Baghdad, Iraq


Exhibition of Plastic Arts: Al-Marbad Poetry Festival, Basra, Iraq


Az-Zawiya (The Angle) Group Exhibition, Baghdad, Iraq


Iraqi Artists Society Annual Exhibition & Inauguration of the New Centre, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Iraqi Artists Society – Eighth Annual Exhibition, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Iraqi Artists Society – Seventh Annual Exhibition, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq

Awards and Honors


Takreem Foundation Cultural Excellence Award, Doha, Qatar


Appreciation Prize, The Arab League, Egypt


Lebanese State Prize for Arts, Ministry of Culture, Rachana, Lebanon


Best Iraqi Sculpture, Gulbenkian Award, Baghdad, Iraq


International Exhibition Award, Rome, Italy


Mayoral Award of Appreciation, Mayor of Rome, Italy

Affiliations & Memberships


Founder, Committee for Recovering Iraq's Culture, Baghdad, Iraq


President, UNESCO National Board of Arts, Paris


Member, One Dimension Group, Baghdad Iraq


Founding Member, az-Zawiya (The Angle) Group, Baghdad, Iraq


Member, Iraqi Plastic Artists Society


Member, Baghdad Modern Art Group, Baghdad, Iraq


Member, Society of Friends of Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Member, The Pioneers Group, Baghdad, Iraq


Azzawi Collection, London, United Kingdom
Dijla Art Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq / Amman, Jordan (Public Collection)
Ramzi & Saeda Dalloul Art Foundaion (DAF), Beirut, Lebanon
Hussain Ali Harba Family Collection, Amman, Jordan
Ibrahimi Collection, Amman, Jordan
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
Orfali Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan
UNESCO Art Collection, Paris, France



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