Drawing from A Great Country Welcomes You
Drawing from A Great Country Welcomes You, 1989
Pencil on paper
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization
(Photo: Harry Foster  © Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation)

" I wanted a country to belong to, a place to establish myself, a country that would recognize my presence and my rights. It was proposed to me that I immigrate to Canada. I had no idea; I only knew that it was a country covered with snow, an industrialized and democratic country that welcomes people coming from all over the world. So I accepted. [...]

I arrived in Canada on February 7, 1989. "

Extracts from an interview with the artist

Adel Alnaser was born in 1954 in Babylon, Iraq. A child of a large family, he learned, early on, his father's coppersmith trade, and decided to become a painter. To pay for his courses at the Fine Arts Institute of Baghdad, he did copperwork every evening after school. Once his courses were completed, he left Iraq and its political climate to pursue studies in visual arts and to broaden his horizons. He went to Italy, studied at the Fine Arts Academy of Rome, founded, with other students, an association for Iraqi artists in exile, and travelled across Europe.

Adel Alnaser
Adel Alnaser, Montreal, Quebec, 2000
Rawi Hage
Gelatine silver prints
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization

In 1984, the Iraqi government did not renew his passport, and Italy refused him citizenship. Adel Alnaser then appealed to the United Nations, which encouraged him to turn to Canada. Arriving in Toronto in 1989, he began a journal in the form of drawings. Later, since he couldn't find work that was sufficiently well paid and that would allow him to draw (ink and pencil) and to paint (oils and watercolours), he chose to live in Montreal, where he managed to earn his living by drawing.

A Great Country Welcomes You
Drawings and texts from A Great Country Welcomes You, 1989
Pencil and ink on paper
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization
(Photo : Harry Foster  © Société du Musée canadien des civilisations)

After an epic period characterized by "scenes dripping with blood," Alnaser's work became more self-critical: One doesn't deal with war through [images of] war. . . . I found a method to express my suffering and the suffering of the people I come from, as well as their political and social problems, in a more aesthetic way. He went on to explore the links between Mesopotamian civilization and Muslim heritage, and began to better familiarize himself with North American art.

Adel Alnaser's works have been exhibited in Canada, Italy, France and the Middle East. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has acquired one of his works.