Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

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Jabrā Ibrāhīm Jabrā
Born
جبرا ابراهيم جبرا

1920
Bethlehem
Died1994
Baghdad, Iraq
NationalityPalestinian / Iraqi
EducationArab College in Jerusalem, Cambridge University, Harvard University
Known forPainter, poet, writer, art critic, literary critic and educator
MovementOne Dimension Group, The Baghdad Modern Art Group; Hurufiyya movement
Spouse(s)Lami`a Barqi al `Askari

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1920–1994) (Arabic: جبرا ابراهيم جبرا) was a Palestinian Syriac-Orthodox author, poet, artist and intellectual, born in Bethlehem at the time of the British Mandate. Educated in Jerusalem and, later, at Cambridge University, he settled in Iraq following the events of 1948. He worked across many creative fields - as an artist, art critic, art historian, poet and intellectual. He is one of the pioneers of the Hurufiyya movement, which sought to combine traditional Islamic art within contemporary works by integrating Arabic script into artworks.

Life and career[edit]

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra born in 1920, in Bethlehem, into a poor family who belonged to the Syrian-Orthodox Church. He was educated at the Arab College in Jerusalem. When he was just 12 years, his family moved to Jerusalem.[1]

He received a scholarship to study in England, starting in 1939. He enrolled at the University of Exeter, in preparation for further studies at Cambridge, and graduated with a B.A. in English literature in 1943.[2]

During his time in England, he visited and photographed the Lake District which had been home to many notable English poets. He also taught at several University colleges. On his return to Bethlehem, he obtained an appointment as a lecturer in English literature at the Preparatory College.[3] He later taught English literature at Rashidiyya College and part-time at De La Salle College College of Arts and Sciences.[4]

In 1948, when the British Mandate ended, his family left Jerusalem and settled in Baghdad, Iraq.[5] He then received a Rockefeller fellowship to study literary criticism at Harvard University, graduating with an M.A, in 1948.[6]

Following his return to Baghdad, he worked in public relations briefly and then for the Ministry of Culture and Information in Iraq. In Baghdad, he taught at various colleges and became a professor of English at the University of Baghdad.[7]

He never again returned to his native land, taking up Iraqi citizenship. He married an Iraqi woman, Lami`a Barqi al `Askari, and was one of the first Palestinians to write about his experiences of being in exile.[8]

He worked across many fields in the creative arts - painting, poetry, writing, translation, art criticism and literary criticism.[9] He was the principal translator of works by Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Becket (from English into Arabic). [10] His home in Baghdad was a meeting place for Iraqi intellectuals. In the second half of the 20th-century, he became a highly influential intellectual in the Arab-speaking world. [11]

Much of his writing was concerned with modernism and Arab society. This interest led him to become a founding member of the Modern Baghdad Art Group in the 1950s; an artists' collective and intellectual movement that attempted to combine Iraq's deep art heritage with modern abstract art methods. Although the Baghdad Modern Art Group was ostensibly an art movement, its members included poets, historians, architects and administrators. Jabra was deeply committed to the group's founder, Jawad Saleem, and Salem's ideals, and drew inspiration from Arab folklore, Arab literature and Islam.[12]

His active involvement in the arts community continued with his becoming a founding member of the One Dimension Group, established by the prominent Baghdadi artist, Shakir Hassan Al Said in 1971. The group's manifesto gave voice to the group's commitment to both heritage and modernity and sought to distance itself from modern Arab artists, which the group perceived as following European artistic traditions.[13] The One Dimension group was part of a broader movement amongst Arabic artists who rejected Western art forms and sought a new aesthetic; one that expressed their individual nationalism as well as their Arab identity. This movement subsequently became known as the hurufiyya movement.[14]

Following his death in 1994, a relative, Raqiya Ibrahim, took up residency in his Baghdad home. However, the house was destroyed when a car bomb was detonated nearby in 2010. Thousands of Jabra's letters and personal effects were destroyed in this incident along with a number of his paintings.[15]

Work[edit]

Poet, novelist, painter, translator and literary critic, he has also translated some English works into Arabic, including James Frazer's The Golden Bough and some of the work of T. S. Eliot. He has produced around 70 books consisting of novels, memoirs and translated material. His own work has been translated into more than twelve languages. His paintings are now difficult to locate, but a few notable works can be found in private collections. [16]

Paintings[edit]

  • Al-nāfida, ["The Window"], 1951
  • Imrā wa tuful'ha, [Woman with Child], early 1950s
  • Al-safdar, [The Brass Seller], 1955
Painting by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, oil on wood, 1946

Notable publications[edit]

Arabic:

  • Tammūz fī al-Madīnah, 1959 (Tammuz in the City)
  • al-Ḥurrīyah wa-al-Tūfān, 1960
  • al-Madār al-Mughlaq, 1964
  • al-Riḥlah al-Thāminah, 1967 (The Eighth Journey)
  • al-Safīnah, 1970 (The Ship)
  • ‘Araq wa-Qiṣaṣ Ukhrā, 1974.
  • Ṣurākh fī Layl Ṭawīl, 1974 (A Cry in a Long Night)
  • Jawād Sālim wa-Nuṣb al-Ḥurrīyah, 1974
  • al-Nār wa-al-Jawhar, 1975 (Fire and Essence)
  • Baḥth ‘an Walīd Mas‘ūd, 1978 (In Search of Walid Masoud)
  • Yanābi‘ al-Ru’yā, 1979
  • al-Rihla al Thanina, 1979
  • Law’at al-Shams, 1981
  • ‘Ālam bi-lā kharā’iṭ, 1982 (A World without Maps) (with 'Abd al-Raḥmān Munīf)
  • Judhoor al Fan al-'Iraqi, 1986
  • al-Ghuraf al-Ukhrā, 1986 (The Other Rooms)
  • al-Bi'r al-ulā, 1987 (The First Well)
  • Malik al-Shams, 1988
  • Yawmiyyat Sarāb ‘Affān: Riwāyah, 1992
  • Shari‘ al-Amirāt : Fusūl min Sīrah Dhātiyyah, 1994


English:

  • Sleepers in the Silent Night, 1955 (novel, originally written in English)
  • Hunters in a Narrow Street 1960,(novel, originally written in English)
  • The Grass Roots of Iraqi Art, 1983 (novel, originally written in English)
  • The Ship. Trans. by Adnan Haydar & Roger Allen, 1985 (novel)
  • The First Well: A Bethlehem Boyhood, Trans. by Issa Boullata, 1995(autobiography/memoir)
  • In Search of Walid Masoud, Trans. by Adnan Haydar & Roger Allen, 2000 (novel)
  • Princesses' Street: Baghdad Memories. Trans. by Issa Boullata. 2005.(autobiography/ memoir)
  • The Journals of Sarab Affan. Trans. by Ghassan Nasr. 2007. (novel)


Translations (English to Arabic):

  • Golden Bough: Adonis, Attis, Osiris; Studies in the History of Oriental Religion, (By James Frazer), 1958
  • Mas’at Hāmlit, Amīr al-Dānmārk, 1979 (Shakespeare's Hamlet)
  • Sūnītāt, 1983 (Shakespeare's Sonnets)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Boullata, Issa J., "Living with the Tigress and the Muses: An Essay on Jabra Ibrahim Jabra," World Literature Today, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2001, pp 214-223;
  2. ^ Boullata, Issa J., "Living with the Tigress and the Muses: An Essay on Jabra Ibrahim Jabra," World Literature Today, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2001, pp 214-223; Jabrā Ibrāhīm Jabrā, Princesses' Street: Baghdad Memories, University of Arkansas Press, 2005, p. 6 and p. 15; Shadimay, A., "Baghdad Ruins, Remains of a Cultural Bridge," New York Times, 21 May, 2010, Online:
  3. ^ Jabrā Ibrāhīm Jabrā, Princesses' Street: Baghdad Memories, University of Arkansas Press, 2005, p. 33
  4. ^ Boullata, Issa J., "Living with the Tigress and the Muses: An Essay on Jabra Ibrahim Jabra," World Literature Today, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2001, pp 214-223; Shadimay, A., "In Baghdad Ruins, Remains of a Cultural Bridge," New York Times, 21 May, 2010, Online:
  5. ^ Faraj, M., Strokes Of Genius: Contemporary Iraqi Art, London, Saqi Books, 2001, p. 24
  6. ^ Boullata, Issa J., "Living with the Tigress and the Muses: An Essay on Jabra Ibrahim Jabra," World Literature Today, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2001, pp 214-223; Jabrā Ibrāhīm Jabrā, In Search of Walid Masoud: A Novel, Syracuse University Press, 2000, [author biographical notes on inside cover]; Johnson-Davies, D., The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010. p. 198
  7. ^ Boullata, Issa J., "Living with the Tigress and the Muses: An Essay on Jabra Ibrahim Jabra," World Literature Today, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2001, pp 214-223
  8. ^ Greenberg, N., "Political Modernism, Jabrā, and the Baghdad Modern Art Group," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2010, DOI: 10.7771/1481-4374.160 Online:
  9. ^ Mejcher-Atassi, S., "Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim (1920–1994)," in Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Routledge, 2016, Online:
  10. ^ Greenberg, N., "Political Modernism, Jabrā, and the Baghdad Modern Art Group," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2010, Online:, DOI: 10.7771/1481-4374.160
  11. ^ Shadimay, A., "In Baghdad Ruins, Remains of a Cultural Bridge," New York Times, 21 May, 2010, Online:
  12. ^ Faraj, M., Strokes Of Genius: Contemporary Iraqi Art, London, Saqi Books, 2001, p. 43
  13. ^ Mejcher-Atassi, S., "Shakir Hassan Al Said," in Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World, Online:
  14. ^ Lindgren, A. and Ross, S., The Modernist World, Routledge, 2015, p. 495; Mavrakis, N., "The Hurufiyah Art Movement in Middle Eastern Art," McGill Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Blog, Online:; Tuohy, A. and Masters, C., A-Z Great Modern Artists, UK, Hachette, 2015, p. 56; Flood, F.B. and Necipoglu, G. (eds) A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, Wiley, 2017, p. 1294
  15. ^ Shadimay, A., "In Baghdad Ruins, Remains of a Cultural Bridge," New York Times, 21 May, 2010, Online:
  16. ^ Greenberg, N., "Political Modernism, Jabrā, and the Baghdad Modern Art Group," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2010, Online: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1603&context=clcweb, DOI: 10.7771/1481-4374.160

Further reading[edit]

  • Shahin, Mariam. Palestine: A Guide (2005). Interlink Books. ISBN 978-1-56656-557-8 (pages 43–44).

External links[edit]