Al Waref Figure of the Month
by Jennifer Young, Al Waref Senior Editor
Al Waref Institute rejoices in the many contributions of artist, poet, statesman, businessman, and Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida’ie, and recognizes him as the Figure of the Month for February.
His dedication to creation and renewal can be seen in his works of art, his words of poetry, and his commitment to political action. The diverse endeavors initiated and undertaken by Ambassador Sumaida’ie characterize his many capabilities and the many efforts he has made to promote a better world.
Born in Baghdad in 1940s, educated at the university level in electrical engineering in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and currently serving as the Iraqi ambassador to the United States (a position that had been vacant for the past 16 years), Ambassador Sumaida’ie has impacted many parts of the world with his writings, designs, and ideas.
As an artist he paved the way for the use of computers in Islamic Art while maintaining a dedication to tradition. He designed architectural structures, such as the Makhah Gate and using his skills and expertise in calligraphy and motif design he beautified buildings and decorative pieces in a diversity of locations. His work can be seen in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom in the form of architectural design, marble inlay, stained glass, and ceramic tile. These expressions exemplify a link between the past, present, and future—using new technologies to produce historical symbols.
His creativity far exceeds his brilliant design and decoration. It can be heard in his speech, reflected in his ideas, and read in his poetry. His poetry, written in both Arabic and English, includes themes of journeying from home and seeking comforts in foreign environments. His pieces ‘The Nomad’ and ‘The Oasis’ both express deep feelings of estrangement, longing, and hope. These works portray his passion and emotionality, which characterize him as a multifaceted and multidimensional human being—determined to understand the world through a variety of avenues.
Before his appointment as Ambassador in April 2006, he served as a member of the Governing Council as Minister of Interior in Baghdad and then as a Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In 2004 he delivered a speech to the United Nations Security Council stressing the importance of the upcoming elections in Iraq in 2005 and uplifting the voices of the many Iraqi citizens looking for alternatives to the violence. Back of the nineties, he was a founding member of the Association of Iraqi Democrats and the Democratic Party of Iraq, working to create institutions that would allow for empowerment after decades of silence.
Ambassador Sumaida’ie was personally affected by the long-standing struggles in Iraq, not just in his exile during the reign of Suddam Hussain but also in the ongoing violence and instability of the US invasion. His inquiries into certain cases of injustice, which affected his family and his fellow citizens, are a testament to his dedication to change and his commitment to a humanity and justice that transcends politics.
The United Nations, a number of different government ministries and leaders, universities, and other public spaces have been forums for his words and ideas in regard to war, art, dialogue, and opportunities for change. His belief in humanity and his dedication to reviving Iraq, ‘the cradle of civilizations’ and a long-time cosmopolitan hub for literature, art, and ideas; is inspiring for a world fighting the many forms of tyranny, which have for too long silenced and marginalized the voices of the many individuals crying out for justice, equality, and humanity around the world.
The artistic and political life of Ambassador Sumaida’ie has been marked by creativity of mind and dedication of spirit. In 2005 he delivered a speech in New York to mark a return of three Mesopotamian cylindrical seals to the National Museum in Baghdad. He recognized the symbolism of the discovery and the action of return as a sign of hope for the then upcoming elections in Iraq. He spoke of a ‘heritage of humanity,’ to which his works contribute in the form of architectural design, poetic language, and political action.
Al Waref recognizes the successes Ambassador Sumaida’ie has had in the field of cultural exchange and diplomacy while celebrating the artistry and creativity that has shaped so many aspects of his life. We look to his work with respect and feel confident that through his art he speaks a language of transcendence, which links together different cultures and peoples of the world. The Al Waref Institute thanks Ambassador Sumaida’ie for the hope he brings in the face of conflict through his understanding of complexity and his dedication to beauty.
*For more information on Ambassador Sumaida’ie in regard to his political and artistic life and for samples of his work, please visit: www.sumaidaie.com