Last artist to paint a bygone Baghdad world dies

The death has been announced of  Eli Sawdayee, one of the last artists to record aspects of Jewish life in Iraq.

Jewish homes in Baghdad with their ‘schnasheel ‘ balconies. (Below) Sleeping on the roof

His works, painted in a naïve style, depict typical Baghdad scenes – ranging from sleeping on the roof to immersing in the Mikva.

In a video (Hebrew) made in 2019, Sawdayee talks about his wealthy family background. He was not an assiduous student at the Alliance school, and spent his time drawing the teacher’s portrait. He fled to Israel in the late 1940s, but still met his old schoolmates, whom he had known since the age of five,  on a Friday afternoon for a game of backgammon.Although his artistic talents were recognised early on, he  was only able to devote himself to his painting when he retired.

Here is a description by Violette Shamash of each of his works. They are important records of a social history that has now disappeared forever.

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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