Nja Mahdaoui

Tunis, Tunisia | 1937

Despite having studied abroad, like many artists of the Hurufiyya movement, Nja Mahdaoui sought inspiration from his roots. Often described as a ‘choreographer of letters’, Mahdaoui is considered by many as the ‘inventor of abstract calligraphy’. Employing various mediums including canvas, papyrus, aluminum and brass, as well as embroidery, ceramic, wood, jewelry and glass, he creates what he refers to as ‘calligrams’. These ‘signs’, devoid of any literal meaning, allow Mahdaoui to focus on the poetic quality of Arabic text rather than the literal meaning of the word.


Eshq 1

180 x 180 cm | Ink, acrylic and metallic paint on canvas


35 x 42 cm | Ink on paper


56 x 79 cm | Ink on paper

“I use fragmented and distorted letters to reject valuing each character.”

Mahdaoui studied painting and art history at Carthage National Museum in Tunis. He later studied painting and philosophy at Santa Andrea Academy in Rome (1966-68). He then moved to Paris to study at the Cite Internationale des Arts and returned to Tunisia in 1977 where he currently lives and works.

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