A Sydney doctor, who turned the driveway of his home into a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site, is the subject of a portrait by artist Sam Dabboussy who has been awarded the Australian Muslim Arts Prize 2022 for his work, Dr Jamal Rifi.

At nearly 150cm high, the stunning oil on canvas work is a tribute to a highly respected member of Sydney’s large Muslim community and beckons the viewer to lean in and learn more about Dr Rifi himself.

Speaking from his home in Kyle Bay, NSW, Mr Dabboussy was stunned to hear the good news after submitting work for the past two years.

“It feels fantastic and it’s an honour. It’s nice recognition for all the hard work I have put in over the last year. I am also grateful that Dr Jamal Rifi will be getting more exposure and recognition for the work he has done in the community,” Mr Dabboussy said.

picture of artist Sam Dabboussy with Professor John Dewar next to portrait of Dr Jamal Rifi

Kyle Bay artist Sam Dabboussy with Professor John Dewar of La Trobe University

Australian Muslim Artists is an annual exhibition hosted by the Islamic Museum of Australia (IMA) in partnership with La Trobe University, which once again this year saw entries pour in from across the country.

Islamic Museum of Australia Senior Curator Dr Mahmoud Mohammed said the field was extremely competitive.

“It is wonderful and well deserved recognition for Sam, an established artist, to receive this prize. His prize winning work was certainly a standout piece this year.  That said, it was also very refreshing to receive some very good submissions by artists whose works we’ve not previously been familiar with,” said Dr Mohammed.

With no binding theme, the fourteen shortlisted artists this year have referenced everything from the Quran, to political conflict and Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.  The mediums too, are varied and include glasswork, textiles, digital art, calligraphy and more.

Islamic Museum Deputy Chair Mr Jevan Bouzo said the Museum’s partnership with La Trobe University and their prize sponsorship is an important driver for artists.

“Australian Muslim Artists represents a unique opportunity for both emerging and established artists to exhibit their work in a professional gallery setting and alongside their peers.  And, for the awarded artist, there’s also the prestige of having their work acquired as part of the La Trobe University art collection,” Mr Bouzo said.

He further added, “To partner with La Trobe University who really value deep connections with diverse communities such as ours, is an honour.”

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the University was delighted to support the Australian Muslim Arts Prize for the fourth year in a row.

“It is wonderful to once again be part of this unique initiative that celebrates achievement within the Muslim artist community,” Professor Dewar said.

He further added, “That this year’s prize has been awarded for a work that recognises the critical role individuals can play in the lives of others accords strongly with the University’s ethos of supporting communities; I warmly congratulate Sam on his achievement.”

Shortlisting for Australian Muslim Artists was conducted by a panel of judges including Dr Stefano Carboni, CEO of the Museums Commission for the Ministry of Culture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Bala Starr, Director of La Trobe Art Institute; community representative Dr Anisa Buckley and Senior Curator at Islamic Museum of Australia, Dr Mahmoud Mohammed.

The Australian Muslim Artists exhibition is on display from 25 August – 15 November 202 at the Museum and online at islamicmuseum.org.au.

As an acquisitive prize, the artwork will become part of the La Trobe Art Institute which manages a collection of art acquired by the University and which has an exhibition and education facility in the arts precinct of central Bendigo.