The Moor in question is Abu Abdullah (c. 1460-1533), the last Arab leader of Granada, which was, in turn, the last Islamic kingdom in Western Europe. Abdullah was forced out of his country by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492. As the story goes, before retreating into exile, he let out one last sigh as he looked back at the city’s glittering palaces.
This feeling of dislocation is something that Yahya understands all too well: born and raised in Baghdad, the artist was pushed out of Iraq during a war that ravaged the country. He now lives and works in Houston, Texas. And while his new solo show at Meem Gallery, “Reconquista,” makes specific reference to the surrender of Granada, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between past and present—and to read Yahya’s works as meditations on timeless themes of memory, grief, and isolation.