عد و انا عد و نشوف يا هو اكثر هموم .. من عمري سبع سنين و قليبي مهموم
On another note, did you know that in the 1970s Iraq’s “date” exports supplied more than 68% of the global consumption? Generating revenues of around 40 million USD (in the currency value of 1970), which is approximately 251 Million USD now, and in post-2003 Iraq began to IMPORT dates and palm trees/seeds from Saudi Arabia.
I was asked yesterday by a friend whether there remains an art scene in Iraq or has it also been destructed throughout the past ten years? As much as I wanted to console myself first, and him, that yes there must remain some attributes of a thriving art scene, realities on the ground suggest otherwise. Many of the artists who have established the current movement of Iraqi art have left Iraq after or before 2003; Mahood Ahmad, Dia Azzawi, Widad Orfali, Jaber Alwan, Wasmaa al Agha (who is the next feature), Nazar Yahya, and many many others. And unlike cinematic or musical art, the presence of traditional artists in the homeland is critical for the establishment and solidification of the art movement itself. This of course did not start only after the invasion, but rather began when the sanctions on Iraq were installed, which saw the prices of the artistic materials reach maximums that average artist couldn’t afford, and the eventual migration many artists. Also, the fact that Iraqi artists, who many consider art their sole source of income, saw themselves and their art appreciated abroad in the Gulf and Europe highlights an important loss of artistic culture in the Iraqi society, which is only such a minute part of the larger cultural degradation that has been occurring in Iraq after the invasion. I even remember watching part of a generic Al Jazeera English documentary about Iraq in which they shot scenes of it in Baghdad Uni Fine Arts college (if I remember correctly), and the physical destruction and garbage that this department has been transformed into is heartbreaking. Even the artistic knowledge and its application have been somewhat eradicated when you notice the pieces scattered around the area being filmed, and how it lacks any sort of true Iraqi artistic identity. So no, from what I, living abroad, can tell it is lost just like many other aspects of the iraqi culture have been transformed.
فوجئت ذات يوم بمقال لنزار قباني منشور في أحد المواقع الإلكترونية تحت عنوان ‘هل تسمحون لي؟’ فدهشت، لان المقال يحمل عنوان مقالي نفسه الذي نشر أصلا في ‘القبس’ الكويتية بتاريخ ،2007/5/14 قلت: من الممكن أن يكون توارد خواطر بيني وبين الراحل، خصوصا ان الإلهام ينزل على الناس من غير حساب. أعدت النظر وقلت: من الممكن أن يكون الراحل كتبه قبل أن يرحل عن هذه الدنيا ولم يسعه الوقت لنشره.. وضعت نظارتي على عيني، من أجل دقة القراءة وكي لا يفوتني شيء من مقال الشاعر الراحل، وأكملت القراءة. بعد ان قرأت أول سطرين في المقال اتسعت حدقتاي وارتفع ضغطي.. وقلت يوووو هذا يشبه مقالي حرفيا. لابد أنني سارقة هذه الجمل من نزار، لأن الرجل قد مات قبل أن أدخل أنا معركة القلم وقبل أن أتنطع بالكتابة. أكملت… فوجدت مقالي كله (بشحمه ولحمه) منقولا ومنشوا تحت اسم الراحل نزار
Here is an article from 2007/10/17 in which the correct author of "Would You Allow Me هل تسمحون لي" Dala’ Al Mufti دلع المفتي clarifies the massive misappropriation that occurred to her poem under the name of the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. A misappropriation that sadly spread quickly and extensively across the internet, until this day. Thus, for anyone who has reblogged my earlier post with the incorrect information, please take the time to correct the author name and forgive me for the mistake <3
Aya Metwalli آية متولي - Bo’d Rabe’ بعد رابع
One of the most emotionally overwhelming tasks is to write about late artists with whom one have formed an emotional connection with their work. What is equally as hard is writing about those artists who have passed away in the midst of their artistic career, in the midst of their extremely personal journey of exploring their identities through their work, which gives us “the viewers” a small window into their lives.
One of those artists was Egyptian multimedia artist Amal Kenawy آمال قناوي who passed away in 2012 after a tough battle with Leukaemia. Amal was born in Cairo in 1974, and was educated in Film and Fashion design studies between 1997 and 1999 at the Cinema Institute in Cairo, before acquiring her BA in Painting rom Helwan University in late 1999. Her involvement with the art scene began to shape up during her studies in 1998, when she participated in the 7th Cairo Biennial where she awarded the UNESCO Grand Prize marking the beginning a successful journey of regional and international recognition.
The Journey is a video performance installation and wax sculpture that was produced in 2004 by Amal Kenawy, and features the artist herself wearing a white dress and floating above the floor of the room in which she is confined, only to later drop heavily on her feet to resume that twirling and floating again. Here again, one could relate this piece to the unseen and ignored dilemmas that marriage, or even the thought and suggestion of it, might exert on women generally. The white room, the white dress, and the white satin pillow on which the wax legs rest all signify an association with the institution of marriage and the perceptions that are perpetuated by its existence.
Amal Kenawy’s artistic versatility becomes extremely evident in the “Non STOP Conversation” installation carried out in Sharjah, UAE. In this beautiful and physically demanding site specific installation/performance, Amal covers an abandoned historical structure in Sharjah with pink handmade quilt, which not only regains the beauty that this structure might have lost in the perceptions of many, but it also forces the commuity to recognize it is existence clearly. This is especially important when one takes into account the effect the modernization process have had on the traditional architecture and society of Sharjah, thus creating a conversation based on appreciation between the physical inert objects and the individual emotions that they generate within the viewer. This conversation also extends into an societal conversation about traditionally and modernization, and its effects and consequences locally.
Much of Kenawy’s work is very intrapersonal in its themes, seeking to dissect the complex human personality within the factors that have contributed to the formation of her own personal identities, both adopted and formulated. This can be seen in “The Room”, one of her early video installations and performances, where she seeks to reconcile her own inner personality while trying to escape the confinement of the physical aspects of existence. In this stop animation, Amal is seen cutting a beating heart that grew from the subsidence of a tree within a confined space, and sewing it with accessories. Coupled with the performance of sewing and later burning a wedding dress by the artist herself, this video-performance collage somewhat highlights the pressures of marriage the society and its expectations place on women, often overloading them with ignored, deep, and often confined physical, emotional, and mental pain, symbolized by the sewing process of the heart.
In collaboration with her brother, Abdel Ghani Kenawy, Amal produced this early Video, Photography, and Sculpture installation in 2002 as part of a project that explores issues of birth, death, and marriage. Themes that were heavily featured in most of her artistic work afterwards, and constitute a base for her progression and versatility in tackling the these topics from different perspectives.
What happens when you present a work of art to the streets? That is what Amal Kenawy experienced when she carried out the “Silence of the Lamb” performance in the streets of Cairo. Dressed as a shepherdess, Amal Kenawy guided a crawling flock of men and children (including her brother Abdul Ghani) through the streets of Cairo, portraying in a very literal and visual manner the problem with conformity the society in general engages in. The performance sought to tackle the influence powerful and privileged institutions have on perpetuating a state of helplessness in the society, both political and cultural.
Droub Elsafar (Sghyeron) صغيرون - Seta Hagopian
Silence of the Lambs/Sheep (2009) - Egyptian Artist AMAL KENAWY
What happens when you present a work of art to the streets? That is what Amal Kenawy experienced when she carried out the “Silence of the Lamb” performance in the streets of Cairo. Dressed as a shepherdess, Amal Kenawy guided a crawling flock of men and children (including her brother Abdul Ghani) through the streets of Cairo, portraying in a very literal and visual manner the problem with conformity the society in general engages in. The performance sought to tackle the influence powerful and privileged institutions have on perpetuating a state of helplessness in the society, both political and cultural. It is important to note that Amal Kenawy wasn’t merely criticizing her Egyptian society. Instead, she was criticizing the whole mental state of submissiveness; and from that, “us”, the viewers can extend its application to situations that are relative to our experiences. Religious, political, cultural, professional, and educational submissiveness. She was criticizing all forms of submission and conformity that halt the development of critical thinking, and instead place the society and its components under the mercy of those who have the power to persuade a society into accepting a position of submissiveness and disengagement from the power to change.
This aspect of the performance soon became overshadowed by what the people on the streets hurled at Amal Kenawy herself. The debate suddenly shifted from that of power and privilege, to one that highlights gender inequalities and patriotism in the Egyptian society. According to Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, men on the street began insulting Amal personally using derogatory sexist names and accused her of demeaning Egypt. She believes that they also felt a sort of vulnerability and humiliation that a woman was the one who led the crawling men. Thus, the debate shifted from one that merely tackles submissiveness as a mental state, but also to one that introduces gender, patriarchy, and patriotism into the midst of this theme, which gave it a more inclusive perspective. I believe this was Amal’s goal from the beginning. To engage the society in a lively and raw multifactorial debate about conformity. Amal Kenawy and all those who engaged in the performance were arrested later that day, and the performance was never carried out again by that gallery.
Dr. Naziha al-Dulaimi (1923-2007) نزهية الدليمي was an Iraqi feminist leader who served as Iraq’s Minister of Municipalities in 1959 under the government of Abdul Kareem Qassem, making her the first female minister not only in Iraq’s modern history, but as well as the first female minister across the Arab world. Dr. Naziha attended and graduated from the Royal College of Medicine at the University of Baghdad in 1948, and in that same year she became a full and instrumental member of the Iraqi Communist Party.
In 1952, al Dulaimi cofounded the Iraqi Women’s League and become its first president. With the support of her organization, she was instrumental in the formulation and implementation of the Personal Status Law #188,which is considered one of the most progressive women right laws in the middle east. Personal Status Law #188 is the same law the current Iraqi government is trying to eradicate and replace with a religiously conservative, sectarian, and reactionary bill. She was also an active member of the Iraqi Peace Movement and the World Peace Council.
At the time of the assassination of Abdul Kareem Qassem in 1963, Naziha was travelling between Moscow and Prague, and afterwards became an instrumental critic of the new government by joining the Council for Iraq’s Defence that was headed by Iraqi poet Mahmoud Mahdi Al Jawahiri. She returned to Iraq however in 1968, during a period that saw the Ba’athist government trying to reach previous members of the ICP, only to later implement more control over the organization and its eventual banning. Since then, the ICP became a relatively secret organization in which Naziha was also a member. In 1979 she decided to leave Iraq and reside in Europe until the 9th of October 2007, when she passed away in Germany.
It is important to note here that the ICP went through a massive split after the Ba’athist government took control according to Haifa Zangana, and many of the communist ideals that they fought for where disregarded, which saw many members abandon the organization, including Zangana herself. This can also be seen in recent post-2003 history with the involvement of the ICP leader in the Interim government installed by the American Occupiers -i.e Paul Bremer-, and the organization’s later involvement in the political process of Iraq’s new governmental institutions, which highlights more than anything their abandonment for all the revolutionary ideals they once fought for.
memmorii Sadly, one of the first things the U.S military did when they occupied Al Rashed hotel in April of 2003 was that they destroyed the mosaic of “Bush is Criminal” Layla Al Attar completed/commissioned. It’s no longer in existence as far as I know.
On another note for every one wondering, yes, Layla Al Attar is the sister of Iraqi painter Suad Al Attar. In fact, when Layla was targeted with her family she was residing in her sister’s house during that time. Even though Suad left Iraq in 1974-75, there is an enchanting -yet painful- similarity between her painting approach and that of her sister’s Layla (may she rest in peace). Both of them painted very dark themes that were filled with sorrow reflecting the reliaties of the homeland, war, and diaspora.
كريم ايها الشاعر الجميل .. حين وصلتني رائعتك (موال الغربة) دخلت المطبخ, وضعت شايا (ابوالهيل) وجلست مع استكانه الشاي وامامي بلقيس وشعرها الطويل الذي كان يغطي الماذن والقباب واشجار النخل في حي السفينه بالاعظميه. ثم بحثت عن (سمك مسقوف) لدي البقالين الانجليز, ولكنهم قالوا انهم لا يعرفونه, رغم انهم استعمروا العراق عشرات السنين. ثم ركضت ورائ ايامي في نادي العلويه, ونادي المنصور, والجسر المعلق, ومقامات النجف, وعبق البهارات في الشورجه, واعراس العصافير والقصب في الاهوار, وربيع الموصل, واسد بابل, ورائحه الجبن الاشوري في اربيل .. هذه ليست قصيدتك يا كريم, انها قصيدتنا جميعا, نحن المنفيين في فضاء العالم, وليس معنا سوي حقيبه ملاي بالياسمين الدمشقي, والرازقي العراقي, وصورنا (التي كانت تتوسط البيت), ونسخ قديمه من (طفوله نهد) و (الرسم بالكلمات) و (قالت لي السمراء) ونسخه من قصيدتي (افاده في محكمه الشعر) التي القيتها في بغداد عام
١٩٦٩ وحين سيغني كاظم: وجعي يمتد كسرب حمام من بغداد الي الصين .. يكون قد اكمل سمفونيه الحزن, واعطانا مفاتيح بيوتنا التي ضاعت هنا منذ سقوط غرناطه .. ابق مزروعا يا كريم علي شفتي ««كاظم الساهر»» واكتب لنا دائما احاسيسنا, واحلامنا, باسلوبك الطفولي الجميل
Nizar Qabbani’s letter in reply to Iraqi poet Kareem Al Iraqi كريم العراقي after listening to Mawal al Ghurba موال الغربة for the first time and asking Kareem to send him a copy of it in his handwriting. Qabbani was extremely moved by it, especially that it reminded him of his late Iraqi wife Balqis. The letter by itself is poetry, but here is an excerpt of Kareem’s موال الغربة:
يادنيا إنتي الحرمتيني من أهلي
سكنت الغرب من غصباً عليّ
ادگ يا باب واسال من عليكم؟
ضعف صبري وزماني خان بيه
صدري مخنوق صوتي مبحوح
دفنتوني بغرب وتعالج الروح
حتي لو اضعف شسوي
الارض مو ارضي
الناس مو ناسي الجو مو جوي
يصير اذل نفسي واشكي لعدوي امري
As freedom deteriorates across Iraq, so does it under the history and characters of Jawad Saleem’s جواد سليم Liberty Monument نصب الحرية in Baghdad’s Liberation square. This short English video from the late 1960s presented here speaks about the monument, its symbolism, and its high regard within the hearts and mind of the Iraqi people. One of Iraq’s most revered and known monuments, and a symbol of the struggles Iraqi people have faced fighting for their freedoms and rights is now becoming lost in the chaos and disregard for Iraq that has swept the country, due to the governmental and social corruption and incompetence. Negligence and lack of concern for Iraq’s treasures is resulting in the decimation of the Liberty Monument; with cracks, ruptures, and breakage of several parts of it are gradually infesting the composition and threatening its structural existence. This negligence highlights the underlying tones of lost freedoms and rights that have swept the country through out all of its institutions and components. It also highlights the loss of both unconscious and conscious treacheries being committed against Iraq and its people in general.
Sadly, local Iraqi poet Mowafaq Muhammad was on point when he described this new Iraq; There is No Liberty Under the Liberty Monument:
فلا حرية تحت نصب الحرية
ولا خمرة في كأس أبي نواس
والمدارس بلا صفوف ولا موسيقى ولا كركرات
هم يرفلون بسياراتهم المظللة رباعية الدفع
ومكاتبهم المبالغ في أناقتها
ومدارسنا تزدوج على أطفالنا مثنىً وثلاثاً ورباعاً
ولم تعد من أخي الذي خرج مثل ملاكٍ
سوى يد محروقةٍ في زنبيل..
وأمي تتوسل كل ما تبقى من صوتها
وتولول.. كل ما أرجوه من قاتلي
أن لا يطرق إلا بالكاتم رأسي.. فأطفالي نائمون
A collection of Kadhem Al Saher كاظم الساهر photos highlighting his wonderful fashion sense from the 1990s.
"Ya Deerati يا ديرتي" from Asmahan’s 1944 film Gharam wa Intiqam غرام و انتقام
يا ديرتي ما لك علينا لوم .. لا تعتبي لومك على من خان
حِنّا روينا سيوفنا من القوم .. وما نرخصك مثل العفن بأثمان
وان ما خذينا حقّنا من القوم .. حارم علينا شفة الفنجان
يا طير ياللي بالمَنايا تحوم .. هَوِّد على اللي بالوطن خوّان
وان ما عدّلنا حقنا المهضوم .. يا ديرتي ما احنا لك سكّان
لا بُد ما تغدي ليالي الشوم .. وتعتز الغلمة اللي قادها سلطان
The poetry for this song was written by Syrian Prince and Revolutionary Zeid al Atrash زيد الأطرش, one of the leaders of the resistance movements against French colonialism in Syria.