British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Height: 6.000 m
Diameter: 1.200 m
On loan from a private collection .
Dia al-Azzawi, Blessed Tigris, fibre-glass sculpture
Work created in AD 2006
This sculpture has been specially created for the exhibition Word into Art (18 May - 3 September 2006) with the support of a sponsor. It will be displayed in the British Museum's Great Court. It is made from fibre glass and is six metres tall. Its shape echoes that of the ninth-century minaret found in the ancient city of Samarra, on the east bank of the Tigris River in Iraq.
The sculpture is inscribed with a poem by the celebrated Iraqi poet Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri, who died 1997. The poem is called 'O blessed Tigris', and was written in 1962:
'I greet you
from afar, O greet me back,
O blessed Tigris, river of gardens green.
I greet your banks, seeking to quench my thirst,
Like doves between water and clay aflutter seen.
O blessed Tigris, oft have I been forced to leave
To drink from springs which didn't my thirst relieve.
O blessed Tigris, what inflames your heart
Inflames me and what grieves you makes me grieve.
O wanderer, play with a gentle touch;
Caress the lute softly and sing again,
That you may soothe a volcano seething with rage
And pacify a heart burning with pain.'
(Translated by Hussein Hadawi)
Dia al-Azzawi studied first archaeology and then fine arts in Baghdad. His work includes paintings, prints, drawings and books as well as sculpture. As a prominent Iraqi artist now living in London, he plays an important role in the promotion of Iraqi and Arab art to wider audiences.
V. Porter, Word into art: Artists of the (London, British Museum Press, 2006)