Mustafa al-Hallaj (1938-2003) was a Palestinian artist, a pioneer of Arab contemporary art, and a true icon when it comes to graphic arts in general. After the 1948 war, Hallaj’s family moved to Damascus, and he spent most of his life in between Syria and Lebanon. He lost 25,000 of his prints in Israeli attacks on Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon war but managed to save the wood and masonry cuts he used to make them. In 2003, Al-Hallaj successfully rescued his famous work Self-portrait as Man, God, the Devil from an electrical fire in his home studio, but died after running in to save other works. He was buried in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
Hallaj’s work is “inspired by ancient Canaanite legends, folk tales, and Palestinian cultural icons, and is a sequence of pictorial narratives which had reached 114 meters at the time of his death, summarizing the history of the Palestinian people from 11 th Century BC to the present.” Entitled Improvisations of Life, this work is 114 meters long. It portrays visual memories and recollections, and a record of civilization dating back 10000 years – a mix of myth and fertility with the intifada of the Palestinians.
Self-portrait as Man, God, the Devil is a Masonite-cut print by al-Hallaj 37 feet (11 m) wide and 9 feet (2.7 m) high in which he represents himself with a long, white beard, a peacock pattern of white hair and enlarged, and almond-shaped eyes staring in awe at the events depicted.
Al-Hallaj has won several local and international awards and prizes.
Some of his work:
The artista Mostafa al-Hallaj