Award-Winning Algerian Artist Mohamed Zmirli

Algerian artist Mohamed Zmirli was born in Tizi-Ouzou on 18 February 1909. Having been orphaned at a young age, he had to leave school to earn a living, which he did by painting peacocks and roosters on items of furniture. At the age of 15, he managed to make his way to Algiers, where he discovered his talent for the fine arts, completing his first still-life painting in 1930, beginning what was to be a successful career during which time he made a significant contribution to the cultural and artistic heritage of his home country of Algeria.

Mohamed Zmirli held his first exhibition in 1935, and regularly exhibited his works at various events, including those organized by the Union of Artists of North Africa (UAAH), the Société des Arts et Lettres d’Algérie and Artistes Libres. He was said to be a great admirer of the works of Algerian-Turkish artist Mohamed Racim who was renowned for his miniaturist paintings, and was considered to be the founder of this unique style of art. In 1944 he met with Mohamed Racim where the subject of an exhibition of Racim’s students and other Muslim painters was discussed. In collaboration with the newly established Cercle Franco-Musulman the first exhibition of its kind was arranged in Algeria, where the works of thirteen artists were displayed in an event that was a great success. This lead to various cultural exchange programs with other countries.

Awards received by Mohamed Zmirli include UAAN Honorable Mention in 1937 and 1938; the Price Chekiken Award in 1945; Diplomas from UAAN in 1945 and 1946; Master Petauton Exchange Bronze Medal in 1945; Silver Medal in 1946; Diploma of the Biennial Tripoli in 1980; Diploma of the Arab Artists Fair in 1982; and the second prize in the first national festival of arts at Souk Ahras. Awards made posthumously include a decoration by the President of the Algerian Republic; a Silver Plate from the Minister of Culture; Honorary Diploma of the first Fair of Djurdjura; a Medal of the Union of Cultural Arts; and a Diploma as Founding Member of the UNAP.

Mohamed Zmirli dedicated his life to promoting Algerian Art, and in recognition of his efforts an art gallery is named after him at the House of Culture of Tizi-Ouzou, as well as a room at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers. He died on 9 December 1984 in Algiers and was buried in his home town of Tizi-Ouzou in Algeria’s Kabylia region.