Innovative Iraqi Calligrapher Killed

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An Iraqi calligrapher has been shot and killed in front of his home in Baghdad. He shaped a new generation of contemporary Arab artists with his books and exhibitions.


The Arab world has lost a connection to its past. Iraqi calligrapher Khalil al-Zahawi was killed in Baghdad last Friday. Al-Zahawi was known throughout the Middle East, revered as an artist and a teacher. He mastered the Arabic script known as Ta'liq - that's an Arabic word for hanging. It's a type of lettering that looks almost suspended on the page. Al-Zahawi reinterpreted the script. He stretched the letters and surrounded them with other words until the text took on the feeling of a painting. His books and exhibitions and his lively Baghdad gallery helped shape a new generation of contemporary Arab artists.

Khalil al-Zahawi had recently been warned to leave Iraq, and indeed had shipped the majority of his collection north to Irbil. When he was shot Friday, he was standing on the steps of his own home in Baghdad.

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