Born in Tunisia in 1937, Nja Mahdaoui is a prominent figure in the Arab and international art world. Described as a 'choreographer of letters,' his visually arresting work comprises paintings, prints, tapestries, book covers and illustrations. He works with a variety of media including parchment, papyrus, wood and aluminium, and is inspired by aspects of local culture such as Tunisian textile design. He is also a performance artist. In 2000, he was selected by Gulf Air to design the external decoration of its fleet for the airline's fiftieth anniversary. He lives and works in Tunisia.

Mahdaoui initially received his artistic training at Atelier Libre in Carthage, after which he studied at the Accademia Santa Andréa in Rome, where he specialised in graphic design. He then went on to study at École du Louvre in Paris, graduating in 1967, and pursued his academic studies and training further, with a scholarship from the Tunisian government, at Cité Internationale des Arts. Mahdaoui is of a generation of Arab artists who studied abroad but sought inspiration from their native culture.