Behind the scenes


Woman with Poet’s Mask,

Acrylic on canvas 30.0 × 40.0 cm

In light of the global escalation of racial discrimination against non-citizens and people of colour during the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist began pondering the relevance of revisiting the history of science and racism. During her initial exploration, she stumbled upon two poignant narratives: the story of Ota Benga and that of Saartjie Baartman, both emblematic of humanity’s cruelty. These encounters spurred the artist to delve deeper into the subjects of race and slavery. Through this project, Najd aspires to shed light on a topic often shrouded in silence, aiming to illuminate the global history of racial slavery, particularly the plight of people of colour, within their artwork.

In her work, Najd oscillates between figurative and abstract styles, and often borders on Surrealism; she explores a variety of themes to do with immigration, freedom and womanhood. In this piece her subject, painted in acrylic on canvas, is depicted without eyes, set against blue tiles inside layered borders.

Maryam Najd

About the Artist

Maryam Najd (b. 1965, Tehran) lives and works in Antwerp. Her paintings bridge the gap between pure abstraction and thematic figuration, with reoccurring themes including the interplay between the corporeal and the spiritual, juxtaposing veiled femininity and nakedness, concealed beauty, and the visible and the invisible. Najd positions herself within the European tradition of portraiture and still life with an eastern perspective. Never far from her practice are the opposing forces of the conflict-laden context of the Middle East and the western ideal of freedom, and she fosters a critical discourse between these opposing worlds. Her empathetic portrayals of migrants and refugees transcend stereotypes, emphasising human dignity.

Maryam Najd left Tehran at the age of twenty-six to study and live in Belgium. Her work has been featured internationally, at institutions such as M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp and Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky.

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Other Works by Maryam Najd