Yes, how did the man coming from the Third World find the peace of mind to write stories? Fortunately, art is generous and sympathetic. In the same way that it dwells with the happy ones it does not desert the wretched. It offers both alike the convenient means for expressing what swells up in their bosom. 
-Naguib Mahfouz in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Like other countries, Libya has witnessed difficult times throughout its modern history but especially during the past few years. What began as a most awaited revolution only tore apart what was left of the country. But difficult times has been known to be great for the development of art, Libya is no exception.

While art is an individual means of expression, it comes as a source of beauty and reflection for a culture.  During these difficult times, a new generation of Libyan artists have turned to communicating their perspectives about history, heritage, politics or just contemporary life through art. It has offered the younger generation a way to convey their burdens; artist to audience then audience to community.

Below is a list of contemporary Libyan artists, who have managed to create beautiful works that showcase Libyan culture and heritage despite the war:

Abdullah Hadia:

Freelance Illustrator and Concept Artist, 1990, Ajdabia, Libya.

Abdullah Hadia, Queen

Abdullah authors a diverse art portfolio full works from different art styles, and has a number of international exhibits under his belt.  

A strange narrative begins to emerge in Hadia‘s art, involving sea creatures, animated figures and comic book characters. After years of experimenting, he turned to Libyan methodology for inspiration as an answer to the true call of his childhood adventures, when not creating fearless manga characters for Habka Magazine (the first comic magazine in Libya) he creates art that exhibits Libyan culture, history and daily life with its bittersweet struggles of war remains and destruction but with a hopeful twist and colorful designs. Alongside Habka, Hadia has participated and represented Libya in Angoulême International Comics Festival, the second largest comics festival in Europe, and the third biggest in the world.

Shefa Salem:

Architecture Student, 1995, Benghazi, Libya.

Shefa Salem artwork

Despite her young age Shefa developed a keen interest in arts, the lack of art spaces and educational institution for art forced her to take up architecture as a major, the closest she could find to her passion.

While war took place on outskirts of Benghazi in 2015, tearing away at the city, a group of arts enthusiasts named Tanarout had emerged. Shefa found the guidance and acceptance she needed to flourish as an artist in her new established community. Tanarout had a strong influence on how she saw and thought about art . In Tanarout, she had the chance to create diverse murals that express the legacy of Libya through mixing ancient Greek heritage with modern Libyan figures.  

Shefa hopes to engage the public interests in Libya’s diverse mix of cultural and historic fabric by igniting their curiosity when deciphering her rich historic murals.

Mohammed Basheer:

Freelance Digital and Concept Artist, 1994, Benghazi, Libya.

Mohammed Basheer digital artwork

Due to his introverted nature, Basheer spent most of his childhood with company of his beloved sketchbooks and video games. Observing the animated characters and their surroundings, Basheer was drawn to what he soon discovered as digital art, where he could create anything he imagined. Mohammed‘s work could be described as Imaginative Realist Art, where he combines his loves of classical realism with a passion for sci-fi and fantasy. His work mixes figures of classical Libyan desert with medieval witchcraft masks and symbols, creating fascinating imaginative environment for the beholder.  He has also worked with Habka Magazine as a lead artist and concept designer.

His work sometimes implements elements of philosophy of other arts, such as Kintsugi or convey much simpler messages like his work for Aegis exhibit targeting violence against women, which has won him a lot of recognition in local art sphere.

Suhaib Tantoush:

Caricaturist, 1995, Tripoli Libya.

Suhaib Tantoush caricature

Like a lot of other artists, Suhaib doesn’t really remember when he started drawing, but what he can notably recall his fascination of  Mohamed Al-Zawawis  work, a pioneer of Libyan cartoons. These  distorts features, spoke to him on another level.

Suhaib understood the significant power of his pen, he started using it to transmit messages without the need for the written article. The concept of creating comical observations of everyday life and conveying what sometimes needed articles in just one painting captivated him.  

Suhaib draws Libyans daily struggles from long waiting lines, blackouts and post war crises, documenting the struggle of a nation.

All images courtesy of artists’ websites.


Hajir AlMahdi
Hajir AlMahdi

I am an engineer, reader, and art lover.

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