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'In January 2011 on Tunisian soil, a land of several thousand years, an earthquake took place on a socio-political level. Its power was unprecedented and unexpected in the North African region. This incident was characterized by a genuine popular rebellion conduct led by the youth without any partisan tendencies. This spontaneous and legitimate wind of freedom, whose apparent violence destroyed fundamentally the existing regime, provided the stimulation and power to let go. It is within this context of emancipation opened towards a new Freedom, and Democracy that forever changed the reality of a despotic power which was not adapted to modernity. I have continued to elaborate without any interruption my painted work, which was already in process outside of all the external events. In fact, through my painted work, each 'Arabic letter' becomes a free aesthetic 'Graphème' which follows a ritual of the subjective language of art, or rather, the artistic visual monologue established between the gestural and spontaneous bursts of all signs or image. In practice, my artistic quest is centered around an optical concept, between emptiness and fullness, between the transposition of polyphonic voices and silence. During my creative path, based on the voluntary elimination of the 'Verb' and its random language substitutes while immersing myself in national and international events, thanks to the most informative effective communication, I consider that the most important concern was to stay away from any influence of the media and to keep safe from alternating any conceptual meaning through the work itself. This means to reject all external emotional signs, that might divert any artist, poet, writer, from his original purpose and to realize a work without any form of authority or any simulation of truths.'
(Nja Mahdaoui, 2012)
Nja Mahdaoui is one of the most important calligraphers in North Africa today. Known as the 'choreographer of letters' or an 'explorer of signs', Mahdaoui works on a variety of mediums ranging from vellum to his recent experimentation with contemporary installations as drums. He has illustrated legendary or sacred myths, tales or manuscripts. For instance, he illustrated stories from the collection of tales One Thousand and One Nights which were the subject of an outstanding French edition, thus reminding us how the influence of Arab literature and culture on our world is immense. He writes and draws with inks and he paints with oils and acrylics, sometimes using his hands to create a few special illusions of calligraphy as visible in Maqam Al Karama. Always filling the spaces with stylized classical Arabic calligraphy, the words create interlinking relationships and are rarely decipherable, but express melodic and rhythmic compositions. There are a few layers with different levels of messages that the artist tries to convey through the fluidity, the intimacy and intricacy of the letters. His style can sometimes be described as Far Eastern, yet his work is in between, as it is not to be viewed as pure calligraphy but as abstract letterism. He is a member of the International jury committee of the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts and he has received a number of distinctions and international awards. Nja Mahdaoui's work graces many museums, and public spaces around the world. The artist participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide including at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Hermitage Museum in St-Petersburg, the National Museum of Scotland and the Modern Art Museum in Baghdad.