Awni Sami is a Kurdish graphic artist, born in the town of Zakho in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. From a young age, Sami was intrigued by his environment, objects and colours. His early artworks include paintings and drawings inspired by, often tragic, events and cultural values in his life and surroundings such as political conflicts and oppression.
At the age of 23, Sami graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, majoring in graphic art. During his studies and subsequently, Sami had several altercations with the Iraqi regime because his artworks exposed aspects such as oppression and corruption in the country. These politically sensitive artworks ultimately led to his arrest by the regime in 1984. After his release, Sami endeavoured to start a new life in an environment where he would express creativity in his work more freely. Along with his family, he chose to immigrate to the Netherlands where he continued his work and started his own art studio.
After many years of art projects and exhibitions in Europe, Sami relocated his studio to his hometown of Zakho. In 2005, he founded the Graphic Art Centre (GAC) in Zakho, a place for students to learn about self-expression and creativity through art. Increased interest in graphic art led Sami to open new art learning centres. Currently, there are five such establishments in the Kurdistan region, allowing the enrolment and graduation of hundreds of young female and male students of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and economic status.
In addition, the GACs allow the enrolment of refugees into the programs free of charge. Sami and his students have successfully participated in numerous domestic and international exhibitions and attended reputable art workshops in countries including China, Poland, Japan and Sweden.