Ala Bashir is a prominent Iraqi painter, sculptor and internationally known plastic surgeon who once treated thousands of Iraqi soldiers for disabilities arising out of wounds sustained during the 1980-1988 war with Iran.

He was also a senior surgeon at Baghdad's Ibn Sina hospital where he provided medical services to Saddam Hussein and senior Iraqi cabinet members.

Dr Bashir left Iraq after US-led occupation forces reached Baghdad on 9 April and stayed in Qatar for a while before moving on to Norway.

There he wrote Insider, a book recounting his views and experiences of the Saddam regime.

Reflections on life

Dr Bashir returned to Qatar in 2004 and embraced his artistic roots by picking up the brush and expressing on canvas his perspective of the trials and tribulations that Iraq has been going through.

What Christ saw of the world
on the cross fascinates Bashir

Since his first exhibition of paintings in Baghdad in 1958, he has taken his works to several Arab, Asian, European and North American countries.

Aljazeera.net recently visited Dr Bashir at his studio in Doha, Qatar.

One of the two themes of his forthcoming exhibition is what Jesus Christ might have seen from the cross. The subject is especially close to Dr Bashir's heart, who says he has always been fascinated by the story of Christ.

He says people have painted, written and sung hymns to symbolise the pain that Christ suffered, but he has a different view of the crucifixion.

The viewer is asked to question
the meaning of life and death 

"I have seen thousands of paintings depicting Jesus on the Cross, explaining the pain he suffered, but I have always wondered how Jesus himself was viewing the world during [his crucifixion]?" says Dr Bashir.

"How did he look at the people? [What] were his views on the values of life, death, justice and hope? The idea of what he was thinking at that moment fascinates me."

The mask of Cain

The second theme that dominates Dr Bashir's works is a reflection of his belief that every human being hides behind a metaphorical mask.

Does every human being conceal
his true self behind a mask?

He believes the idea of hiding behind a mask developed after Adam's son Cain killed his brother Abel. Filled with sorrow, regret and fear from his brother's soul which was chasing him, Cain sought to hide behind a mask.

"Some say that God advised Cain to hide behind a mask as a means to himself from the chasing soul, but we know that God does not protect killers, so why did he advise Cain and gave him a solution?" Dr Bashir says.

"There must be a great divine wisdom behind that, and I want people to think of it."

Dr Bashir believes the skill of hiding behind a mask from other people has been built inside humans ever since the killing of Abel.