The Wasit Painter Who Cannot Read or Write, But Makes his Brushes Sing

By Mohammed al-Zaidi

 

Karim al-Ghuraibawi trained himself and has been recognized in the local art scene as a talented painter.

Anyone who enters the home of Karim al-Ghuraibawi, in the center of Wasit city in the province of the same name, will often be surprised by the number of paintings on the walls. Most of the artworks are by the homeowner himself.

Al-Ghuraibawi has never had formal lessons but learned the art of painting on his own. He mastered some of the more complicated painting techniques by watching others on YouTube.

“I started painting when I was 10 years old,” al-Ghuraibawi recounts. “I found a way to express myself through painting and was able to find a way to make a living out of it.”

Al-Ghuraibawi often sits by the Gharraf canal near his neighbourhood and spends time painting the landscape or planning his next artwork. Wearing a traditional long white shirt and sporting a white beard, the artist sees art as a way “to escape the chaos of everyday life”. He has also found a way to make enough money to support his family and organized, as well as participated in, several local art exhibitions. Indeed, he would have liked to have travelled out of Iraq to participate in exhibitions he was invited to display works in but has never been able to afford the plane ticket.

While al-Ghuraibawi is painting, his son Mohammed often observes him, his eyes following the path of his father’s brush.

“My father cannot read or write but he knows how to paint,” Mohammed tells Al Menassa.

Both men are proud that al-Ghuraibawi has managed to build a reputation in the local art scene even though he is illiterate. One doesn’t always need a university education to capitalize on native talent, they say. The artist’s natural connection to his surroundings and his simple, rustic lifestyle enables him to come far closer to the subject material than others, who have more education.

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