Born 1928, Taboudoucht des Aït Djennad, Algeria; died 1985, Algeria
M’hamed Issiakhem spent most of his childhood in Relizane. In 1943, after handling a grenade found at an American camp, Issiakhem sustained severe injuries leading to the amputation of his left arm. The explosion also resulted in the death of his two sisters and nephew. Issiakhem started his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts, Algiers, from 1948 to 1951, where he studied fine art and miniature painting under the instruction of Eugène Bersier, Paul Nicolaï and Mohamed Racim. He then travelled to Paris, where he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts from 1951 to 1955. After graduating, he left France for Italy, West and East Germany, Spain, Yugoslavia, Belgium, USSR, and other locations, where he resided and worked until the Algerian independence in 1962. In January 1962, he was resident at the Villa Velazquez in Madrid. Returning to Algeria that year, Issiakhem worked as a caricaturist for the daily Algerian publication Alger Républicain. He co-founded the Union Nationale des Arts Plastiques in 1963, and from 1964 to 1966 he was the director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Oran. In 1971, he was professor of graphic art at the École Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme, Algeria. From 1965 to 1982, he designed the imagery for Algerian bank notes and stamps. Issiakhem travelled to Vietnam in 1972 and the following year received a gold medal at the International Fair, Algiers, for the work he created for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In 1977, the artist completed a public commission for a fresco in Algiers Airport. In 1980, he received the first Lion D’Or of Rome from UNESCO for African Art. He died in 1985 after suffering from cancer.
Issiakhem exhibited his work internationally including solo exhibitions at Galerie Donilstraz, Leipzig, 1959; Musée des Arts Modernes, Algiers, 1974; Galerie Aurassi, Algiers, 1982; and Musée Sidi-Boussaïd, Tunis, 1985. His participation in group exhibitions and festivals include Galerie Carnot, Algiers, 1949; Galerie André Maurice, Paris, 1951; International Festival for Youth and Students, Warsaw, 1955; Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1964; and Festival Panafricain de la Culture (where he received the Grand Prix du Jury), 1969. Since his death, retrospectives of Issiakhem’s work have been held in Algeria, France and Russia including Syndicat’s Gallery, Moscow, 1989; Salle Miro, UNESCO, Paris, 2003; and Musée des Arts Modernes et Contemporains, Algiers, 2009.