Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Beirut Office and curator Rasha Salah, in partnership with Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture invite you to the opening of ‘Iraqisms’: a series of artistic and cultural events. ‘Iraqisms’ sheds light on the current art scene inside Iraq and in the diaspora.

The opening reception will feature ‘Dress Code’, a video installation by Mahmoud Obaidi; ‘Back to the Future’, a multimedia installation by Adel Abidin, and a tribute from Palestine to Iraq through a recital of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry by Raeda Taha.

Following the opening, the events will include a talk by Sinan Antoon “The Text’s Memory: A Biography of Water”, an encounter with Dia Azzawi and a live presentation of his installation ‘Wounded Soul’, in addition to film screenings and encounters with directors, including Samir, Adel Khaled, Dhyaa Joda, Mohamad Al-Daradji, Parine Jaddo and Nadia Shihab. The closing event will feature an Iraqi music session with a presentation by music critic Samer Almashall, in the presence of composer Kawkab Hamza.

RLS Beirut Office Director Statement

The Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung began its engagement in Iraq only recently in October 2018. Hosting Iraqisms is the first attempt to recapture some of these fresh impressions by means of an art show.

The foundation is still in the process of defining its role it may have in Iraq and what its field of work will be in the future, constantly expanding its network and knowledge of the country. Many planned and unplanned meetings have led to glimpses of what reality in Iraq looks like, has answered some questions and opened up more new ones. 

Some of the questions and images that arose before beginning the foundation’s engagement in Iraq now give way to real pictures and encounters. Stories are being formed and told. Stories we wish to fill with the same energy, positivity, humor and dynamics within all the tragedy, trauma and violence that we so often encounter on-site.

Beirut is the foundation’s center in the region and therefore was deliberately chosen to bring these impressions and images to Lebanon’s capital as the first city of our Iraqisms festival.

We want our guests to tell us their perspectives and ideas on Iraq, to share with us their stories of exile and return, of music and poetry, of sadness and anger, humor and joy, of memory and presence, of hopeless violence and a possible future. 

– Miriam Younes

Curator’s Statement

April 2003: Baghdad has fallen.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that such pain which pierced my chest ever existed.

Baghdad has fallen, declaring with her fall the invasion of the new Tatars.

She has fallen, Arab cities collapsed one after another, and we all turned into scattered remains on the shores of far cities. Iraq had disappeared from sight and memory. We had no time to bid farewell to the laughter of friends and the shores of Tigris, salvage the letters of words, books from the alleys of Al-Mutanabbi street, or keys of museums everywhere. We didn’t remember Baghdad nor ask about her children and the forthcoming rain. But she didn’t die; it might have seemed she did. She is now here.

This week is a tribute to the palms of Iraq and a celebration of the creators who draw new memories and cross the bridge towards a new Iraq.

Iraqisms is Beirut’s celebration of Baghdad on behalf of all the cities, in hope for us to “become homelands… I’ll be Baghdad, and you’ll be Jerusalem. As I lay my head on your shoulder a little, Damascus will blossom, and the world will be orderly.” 

– Rasha Salah

The Program

Back to the Future, 2019
Multimedia Installation by Adel AbidinOpening 7 Oct – 7-9 PM – On display until 26 Oct

After having left my home-country Iraq almost 18 years ago, what stayed with me is a pile of memories. Memories constructing my own identity as an Iraqi. 

Reliving and processing them caused distortion and deconstruction. Memories from my childhood became intangible. They lost their physicality, their existence in time.

Memories were now fairytales to tell, they had abandoned their authenticity. People’s adding had changed them. They became myths.

Revisiting them feels like rewinding a tape cassette with a graphite pencil. Rotating the reel of time. Rewinding the memories had evoked a different meaning.

Investigating the intangible songs, I used to hear and sing when I was a kid, I found odd connotations in them. I knew them as melodies of unknown sources. Lullabies, which had become folksongs for children.

Researching them made me discover a change in perception. The lack of archival resources in Iraq had opened windows for different interpretations. Places and happenings had turned anecdotal. Context had turned them into traditions with a new content.

I recall when my cassette player was partially broken and I had to wind my tapes by hand using a pencil when trying to find a certain song on the tape. I suddenly realized that it actually feels quite similar to trying to go back to a memory today, so it became the inspiration for my piece. I decided to turn these thoughts into kinetic sculptures and invite the audience to participate in investigating the meaning of the songs.

Adel Abidin was born in Baghdad (1973) and currently resides in Helsinki. He received a B.A. in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad (2000) and an M.F.A from the Academy of Fine Arts in Time and Space Art in Helsinki (2005).

Abidin gravitates toward social situations dealing with elusive experiences and cultural alienation. He uses his cross–cultural background to create a distinct visual language, often laced with humor, sarcasm, and paradox. 

Since his representation of Finland at the Nordic Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), his work has been the subject of major exhibitions worldwide including: 7th Moscow Biennale, Moscow (2017); NGV Triennial – National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; 56th Venice Biennale (2015); 5th Guangzhou Triennial; 54th Venice Biennale, Iraq Pavilion (2011); 10th Sharjah Biennale; 17th Biennale of Sydney; 11th Cairo Biennial, (2009); 4th Gothenburg Biennale (2007). Abidin has been represented in galleries worldwide, including Galerie Tanit, Beirut (2017); Hauser & Wirth Gallery, London (2013); Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Dubai; Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul; Anne de Villepoix Gallery, Paris (2011).  

Dress Code, 2011
Video Installation by Mahmoud Obaidi
Opening 7 Oct – 7-9 PM – On display until 26 Oct

We are born naked. We become aware. We feel vulnerable. We put on clothes. We join a group. We dress in uniforms. We go to war. We die naked.

Mahmoud Obaidi (b. 1966, Baghdad) is an Iraqi-Canadian artist whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. After leaving Iraq in 1991, he obtained his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Guelph in Canada, and completed diplomas in new media and film from Toronto and Los Angeles, respectively. His work has been exhibited extensively, including at Qatar Museums Gallery, Doha; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Saatchi Gallery, London; the National Museum of Bahrain; the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; the National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Texas; and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, among others. His work is part of the permanent collection of a number of significant museums, foundations, and private collections.

The Text’s Memory: A Biography of Water

Talk by Sinan Antoon

Tuesday 8 Oct at 6:30 OM

Elegies dominate during times of war, devastation, and their aftermath. When there are occasions and opportunities for praise in narratives about Iraqi culture, the distant and pre-modern past takes its rightful share. However, that often comes at the expense of modern Iraqi culture. This talk is a celebratory return to the springs and tributaries of modern Iraqi creativity. Ones which the author and his works draw on.

Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, scholar, and translator. He has published two collections of poetry and four novels. His works have been translated into fourteen languages. His translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s last prose book, In the Presence of Absence,won the 2012 American Literary Translators’ Award. His translation of his own novel, The Corpse Washer, won the 2014 Saif Ghobash Prize for Literary Translation and was longlisted for the International Prize for Foreign Fiction. His scholarly works include The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf (2014) and articles on Mahmoud Darwish, Sargon Boulus, and Saadi Youssef. He has published op-eds in The GuardianThe New York Times and various Arab publications. His fourth novel, The Book of Collateral Damage,was published by Yale University Press in 2019. He is Associate Professor at New York University.

This talk is part of ‘Iraqisms’, a series of artistic and cultural events, organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Beirut Office and curated by Rasha Salah in partnership with Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

Language: Arabic | Limited Seats

Wounded Soul

A talk and installation by Dia Azzawi

Wednesday 9 Oct at 6.30pm – On display until 26 Oct

This encounter with Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi will feature a presentation of his installation ‘Wounded Soul’. Regarding the artwork’s symbolism, Azzawi says that the horse represents ‘an essential element in traditional narratives. It embodies the destruction caused by strife and the loss of thousands of innocent Iraqis to absurd wars which dragged the country to occupation, casualties and battles.’ Moreover, the artist pays tribute through this work to the anonymously assassinated 450 Iraqi academics. He clarifies that their assassination was ‘a mere continuation of the American occupation’s mission, which was followed by identity-based killing and thousands of prisoners.’

Born in 1939, Dia Azzawi is an Iraqi artist who is now living and working in London. A pioneer of modern Arab art, Azzawi’s body of work spans over forty years. His art draws inspiration from his homeland and covers a range of subjects executed in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, prints and drawings.

This talk is part of ‘Iraqisms’, a series of artistic and cultural events, organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Beirut Office and curated by Rasha Salah in partnership with Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

Language: Arabic | Limited Seats

Four Iraqi Shorts
Screening of short films followed by a Q&A

Thursday 10 Oct at 6:30 PM

Amal’s Garden | Nadia Shihab
2012 | 32min
Language: Turkmen and Arabic with English subtitles

Amal and Mustafa are an ethnic Turkmen couple who have shared a long life together in northern Iraq. When Amal decides to renovate their home after a decade of war, Mustafa retreats to the garden, where he encounters the curious gaze of his grandniece and her camera. 

Nadia Shihab is an artist whose work draws on her interest in diasporic longing, relationships to place, and processes of improvisation. Her films have shown in film festivals and galleries internationally including the Centre Pompidou and the Arab American National Museum.

Survivors of Firdos Square | Adel Khaled
2011 | 28min
Language: Arabic with English subtitles

The film presents the story of two artists: Bassem, a sculptor and Adel, a director. It portrays their struggles in Baghdad as a result of the US occupation and their departure to Damascus, where they went separate ways. Bassem returns to Baghdad and dies in mysterious circumstances, while Adel arrives in Europe.

Born in 1981 in Baghdad, Iraq, Adel Khaled graduated from the Art Institute of Fine arts of Baghdad in 2004 and worked as a filmmaker. In 2008, he fled to Belgium where he is living since. He directed and co-directed several movies.

Crazy Days | Adel Abidin
2004 | 10min
Language: English without subtitles

An Iraqi immigrant man living in Finland, who is neither physically nor mentally integrated with the Finnish society, gets his attitude reinforced by constantly being approached as an outsider by Finns. The film shows a collection of impressions this Iraqi man has gathered while in Finland. Like an invisible spirit, he enters the house of a 30-year-old Finnish woman and sees her life through his thoughts. He walks in the streets and the forest. The film visualises his associations; he links Finnish rituals with Iraq. The film is saturated by loneliness and the experience of distance between people.

Adel Abidin was born in Baghdad in 1973 and currently resides between Helsinki and Amman. He received a BA in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 2000 and an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in Time and Space Art in Helsinki in 2005. He represented Finland at the Nordic Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennale and his work has been the subject of major exhibitions worldwide, such as the 56th Venice Biennale. 

Sabyea | Dhyaa Joda
2017 | 17min
Language: Kurdish and Arabic with English subtitles

A Yazidi woman lives in the valley of a mountain, in northern Iraq, with her only daughter. Her husband left with other men to fight ISIS, while other families decided to flee for safety. Despite everyone’s entreaties, the heroine decided to stay put stubbornly, preferring to die with honour rather than live like a slave (‘sabyea’).

Dhyaa Joda was born in Baghdad where he studied cinema at the University of Fine Arts in 2005. He moved to live in Belgium and studied photography in Brussels. A documentary and short films filmmaker, he has also worked as an assistant director and cameraman.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with directors Adel Khaled and Dhyaa Joda.

Baghdad in My Shadow

Film Screening and Q&A with Samir
Friday 11 Oct at 6:30 PM

Taufiq, an old failed writer; Amal, a wife in hiding, and Muhanad, a clandestine gay IT-specialist all meet at Abu Nawas, a cosy café and popular hangout for Iraqi exiles in London. Instigated by the preacher of a radical Islamist mosque, the writer’s nephew Nasseer, a fanatic religious youth, attacks his uncle and turns everyone’s life upside down.

A Producer, author and director, Samir was born in 1955 in Baghdad, Iraq. He is well known for his unique, award-winning fiction, documentary and experimental films. His work to this day encompasses more than 40 films for cinema and television.

2019 | 1h 44min
Language: Arabic with English subtitles

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Samir Riadh Jamal Aldin.

This screening is part of ‘Iraqisms’, a series of artistic and cultural events, organised by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Beirut Office and curated by Rasha Salah in partnership with Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture.

Limited Seats

Son of Babylon Qawana – Broken Record
Film Screenings and Q&A
Saturday 12 Oct

3-4:30 PM

Son of Babylon | Mohamad Al-Daradji
2009 | 1h 30min
Language: Arabic and Kurdish with English subtitles

Northern Iraq, 2003, two weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein: Ahmed, a 12-year-old boy, begrudgingly follows in the shadow of his grandmother. On hearing news that prisoners of war have been found alive in the south, she is determined to discover the fate of her missing son, Ahmed’s father, who never returned from the Gulf war in 1991. From the mountains of Kurdistan to the sands of Babylon, they hitch rides from strangers and cross paths with fellow pilgrims, on all too similar journeys. Struggling to understand his grandmother’s search, Ahmed follows in the forgotten footsteps of a father he never knew. 

Mohamad Al-Daradji is an Iraqi-Dutch film director born in Baghdad in 1978. He studied theatre in Iraq, and cinematography and directing in England. He is known for his drama films, which focus on political affairs in the Middle East and their effects on interpersonal relationships.

5-6 PM
Qawana – Broken Record | Parine Jaddo
2013 | 1h 15min
Languages: Turkmen and Arabic with English subtitles

A poetic journey through Iraq in search of an Iraqi/Turkman song, which the filmmaker Parine Jaddo’s mother used to sing, and recorded with her brothers in 1960. Though she knows the melody, she no longer remembers the lyrics. Curiosity takes her around the country in search of the song, giving her insight into Iraq’s rich musical heritage, much of which has been lost.

Parine Jaddo was born in Baghdad, Iraq and studied in Lebanon at AUB then at Howard University in Washington DC. Her films include ‘Atash’, ‘Aisha’, and other documentary films. She is a recipient of the Paul Robeson and the Princess Grace awards.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Parine Jaddo.

Iraqi Music: An Overview
Listening Session
Saturday 12 Oct 2019 at 7 PMIraqi music critic Samer Almashall will present a historical overview of Iraqi music and its most significant creative episodes from the twentieth century until nowadays. Moreover, he will present excerpts of the musical genres from different Iraqi regions, shedding light onto Iraq’s singing icons who were able to construct a discourse with Arab audiences. The session will feature composer Kawkan Hamzah, who is considered a pioneer of Iraqi musical modernity.

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