Friday, September 19, 2008

From an artists point of view...

Inanna in Damascus

I was really excited to see that my painting "Inanna in Damascus" had generated dialogue on Arabic Online newspaper ELAPH in the past couple of days. As an Iraqi woman, painter aside, I was interested to see what kind of discussion was stirred up by the exposure to a painting about Iraqi female prostitution, a crisis that I consider very important to expose. 
First and foremost, I must give my thanks to Dr. Suki Falconberg who was the first to respond to my painting by way of writing an article about it which subsequently got posted on quite a number of blogs, primarily American Chronicle. It was through Dr. Falconberg's article that it was translated to Arabic by Mohammad Hamed and posted on the ELAPH website.
I highly enjoyed reading the feedback, and they are words that I will take into consideration. However, a few comments disturbed me and I wanted to take the chance to stand up for my beliefs and for my representation of these beliefs. 
I do not paint for fame. I am not interested in how the market values my art and I do not want to be known for being a "controversial artist". I paint for my people, and I paint to generate dialogue amongst people. Not only from the art elite, but from the public, regardless of who they may be.
That is the reason I was excited to see that people responded to my painting.
Second, I would be the last person to exploit my country and the crisis it is currently passing through. I am not one to believe that one must stand up for their country for good or bad. I am not blinded by nationalism and I have no allegiance to a flag. I am an Iraqi woman and this history belongs to me, as much as any other person who would like to claim it. War is not an honourable event, and unfortunately for Iraq, its crisis is public. The injustices that the land and people of Iraq are passing through are results of many agents and players. 
I respond to these injustices by paint because I believe viewers should know about them and to be able to recognize who the key players are. At least to think critically about the images before them. 

Prostitution has never been a secret. There has been prostitution of women of all nationalities since time immortal. And I agree with many of the commenters that wanted to remind me that Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay played a huge role in the shaming of Iraqi women. But this painting was not about Saddam. We are still suffering the consequences of Saddams 35 year reign, and this is one of its consequences. 
Every social problem that Iraq is suffering from is a consequence of Saddam Hussein, from illiteracy, sectarianism, to the shortage of electricity! But he is only part of the picture. It is not the big picture.

Alot of commenters asked me where I was when other injustices were happening to Iraq and its people. Well, this is but one of my paintings and there will be many more. I am a young artist and I still have much more to say.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Treating The Void

Medical City
My uncle inspires me. He is a doctor in Baghdad. In 2006, he was threatened with his life and the life of his family if he continues to practice as a surgeon in Baghdad's Medical City (Madinat al Tib). After a short fearful stint in Najaf, he returned to Baghdad, at his original post where he remains to this day, despite the threats on his life. Many of his colleagues have left, to all corners of the country and of the world to look for a better life, but he remained in Baghdad. In my family, three other doctors have left. He stayed. For it is his courage, his beliefs and his solidarity with his land and his people that has kept him there. I am honored and proud to be his niece. 
Warzones are no easy workplace. Most of the educated, intellectual, creative Iraqi's have left Iraq since the start of the war in 2003, joining the rest of our educated crop that left during Saddams stifling regime. You can find Iraqi doctors, architects, artists, writers and thinkers all over the world, but mostly in the U.K., U.A.E., Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and sprinkled around Europe and North America. The unfortunate result of the exodus of trained brains is a severe shortage in the intellectual, cultural and medical fields in Iraq. What happened to the reputation of Iraq as the standard of education and cultural thinkers in the Arab world? What is going to happen to the generations of Iraqi youth who have lost their right to be taught, trained and treated by the elders who have worked hard on educating themselves and educating others? Who will fill that void?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Animal in Man

Robert Fisk recently penned an article on Margaret Hassan. She is not forgotten.

The Tragic Last Moments Of Margaret Hassan

By Robert Fisk

08 August, 2008
The Independent

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rally for Iraq

So yeah, there might be alot of NGO's and alot of humanitarian agency's and stuff and it all seems so far fetched for the average person to get involved with. At least thats how I feel most the time. I have my own reservations about NGO's and intentions and incentives. 
All this to say.... I found something for the average person who does genuinely want to help the Iraqi cause (whatever that cause may be- I have my own reservations about the Iraqi cause and intentions and incentives).

Buy a T-shirt with ''Baghdad University'' and your money goes into funding Iraqi's pursuing higher education. 
You got nothing to lose... If only everything we bought aimlessly had a higher purpose.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Club 43, Gemayze, Beirut

The essence of this city cannot be expressed in words. The rush of culture and the beauty of this land has enveloped me since I arrived here a week ago. Despite the political instability surrounding the fate of Lebanon, you would never guess it. Sitting in cafe's, listening to Fairuz, and witnessing what many before me have witnessed before I even made my entry into this world... made me think of nothing else.... but Iraq.
If Iraq had not been swallowed up whole by the powers that be and the Power that was, maybe it would have continued to act as one of the major cultural centers of the Arab world. Maybe the books about Iraqi art that I find in the dusty second hand book shops wouldn't be old relics from the fifties and sixties, but contemporary publications from yesteryear. Maybe the old, crusty tourism guide to Iraq that I found in a Beirut bookstore wouldn't be an old relic from the past. Maybe I could see them myself for the first tragic time in 24 years. Maybe a non-Iraqi could be interested to visit the cradle of civilization and see where it all started in Uruk or Ur. 
Maybe, just maybe, Iraqi's here wouldn't be flocking to cities like Amman, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo as refugees but as ambassadors of art and culture, to join the flow of Arab art and culture. 
But Iraqi's have much bigger problems to deal with today than the intellectualization of our post-modern aesthetics. They have much bigger problems to deal with than interpreting post-war imagery because we are still AT war. With ourselves. With our neighbors. With our farthest counterparts in the West. With our histories. With our forgetful memories. With our traumatized childhoods. With our misled ideologies. 

If Beirut was able to resuscitate itself from crumbling into the abyss of a 15 year long civil war and emerge thirsty for life... maybe Iraq will have its chance to shine again.  

Monday, March 24, 2008

Iraq is Dying and No one is looking for the cure

No one is innocent, not in our eyes, nor in their eyes. Our tribal tendencies are at their height. 

I have endured close to two weeks of self contemplation within arms reach of my soul's land, Iraq, and I have endured the fighting urge to just pick up and go back every day. Its stronger than ever before, maybe because I know that this year is going to hold something very important for Iraq and its people. 2008. Let me clarify:

1958- Abdel Karim Qasim's military coup
1968- Baath party military coup with Hasan Al Bakr
1978- Saddamn begins his reign
1988- The Halabja massacre and the End of the Iran-Iraq war 
1998- The  UN inspections fiasco and "Operation Desert Fox"
2008- ??????????????????????????

This year, I will hold my breath. And I fear for the worst. 

Since I last set foot on my homeland in 2004, things have successively gotten worse and worse. The WORST part is that we are being lied to right to our faces. How could George Bush say that the war has made the world a better place on the 5th year since the start of this mess? Does he really think that we are idiots? 
In the past 5 years, I've seen things happen to my loved ones that I never thought could happen. The death threats, kidnappings, internal displacement, the fight for refugee status, the struggle, the exile, the murders... 
And thats just me, my family, our five-year history. 
All that and I'm not even talking about the psychological effects and the post-traumatic stress that every single Iraqi suffers from, born out of the "Shock and Awe" that they were forced to experience for a futile and ridiculous cause by the Bush Administration. As we were told. However, it would take the deaf, dumb and blind not to realize that this plan is rooted in history... Imperial history has been intertwined with Iraqi history for the past century. And it intends to be for the next century. This is a carefully studied plan, and they did not choose Iraq haphazardly. 
Read your history, educate yourself on the true intentions of American presence in Iraq.

In conclusion............ I'm bitter. 
I'm bitter because I still can't visit my soul's land. I'm bitter because I can no longer visit my home because there are strangers living in my house, going through my family photo albums and "acquiring" the only connection I still have to my homeland. 
I'm bitter because there is nothing I can do to help my family that is still struggling in Baghdad because none of our Arab Neighbors accept their presence anymore.
I'm bitter because our Arab Neighbors make it so damn apparent that those who did make it into their promise land have clearly overstayed their welcome. 
I'm bitter because I still can't taste, smell, and live within my soul's land. 
I'm bitter because there is nothing left in my soul's land.
Nothing.... no humanity, no pride, no cause, no respect, no innocence, no beauty, and no heartbeat.

I am a proud Iraqi woman, and I never thought I would ever say this. But I'm afraid that my bitterness has enveloped me beyond abayas and poosheyas. 

Iraq is dying and No One is looking for a cure to its disease.

No one is innocent. Not our neighbors in the East, the indifferent in the West, the American military, the US administrations (all of them), and especially not our own Iraqi brothers and sisters. Even our children have been stripped of their innocence. 

Utter and Total Speechlessness

I've been laying low on the blog tip for the past little while. I'm currently in the Middle East, between Amman and Damascus. I thought I would be able to write more since being here but I'm afraid its had an adverse effect. I've become a sponge, absorbing life here, trying to make sense of what Iraqi's are experiencing as refugees in both Amman and Damascus and the differences between those experiences. I'm not yet ready to write. I still feel like an outsider... Ajnabeeya. 

Monday, March 03, 2008

Inanna in Damascus

Inanna in Damascus

Welcome to my new painting, entitled Inanna in Damascus
I have created it for a very special exhibition that will be held at the University of Ottawa on March 08-15, 2008, entitled "Corrective Lenses: Challenging Representations of Women of Colour in Art."
I am very honoured to be a part of this show, the women involved are all inspiring and established in art, politics, academia and journalism... If any of you will be in or around Ottawa, make your way out to the U of O for the panel discussions and art starting at 4pm on Saturday March 08.

This is the breakdown of my piece so you could have a better idea of what exactly was going through my mind:

"Inanna in Damascus" is a reinterpretation of “The Slave Market” (1867) by Jean-Leon Gerome. It has been re-imagined as the modern day depiction of the Iraqi prostitutes that are being exploited daily in clubs, brothels and hotels around Damascus.
The original Orientalist painting by Gerome is an apparent representation of a transaction between slave merchant and buyer of the 'slave' woman in the centre. It is set in an unnamed Arab country, but its assumed that it existed in Gerome’s imaginary Orient. I chose this particular painting to re-imagine for numerous reasons. It is these same connections of pimp and client, the soldier and the politician, and the Arab businessman that existed in the 19th century and today.

In "Inanna in Damascus", I chose to expose the sex industry that is currently running rampant in Middle East due to the consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the resulting exodus of refugees. Syria is currently housing the most refugees out of Iraq's neighboring countries, with over 1.5 million Iraqi's taking refuge there. Prostitution has become both an industry and a form of slavery, with stories of Iraqi girls either getting sold by desperate families, duped by shady 'pimps' promising them decent jobs, or out of the woman's lack of options as a refugee in a without a breadwinner and without the right to hold a working position. Inanna, the female figure, is the Sumerian goddess of sexuality and war, one of the most revered goddesses of pre-Islamic Mesopotamia. The painting represents the Arab World's most undiluted oppressor of Women, and also their most frequent client, the Saudi 'Wahabi' man. Also present is the American soldier, a reminder of the War across the border, and of the chaos that ensued out of his governments presence in Iraq. Finally, the pimp stands behind Inanna, while all four stand in front of a Syrian cityscape in the Ottoman-esque courtyard of a nightclub aptly called "Al Hurman", defined as 'the forbidden' from Arabic, with its roots in the words "Hareem/Harem" (def: women's quarters), and "Haram" (def: sin). 

Below is the original painting by Jean Leon Gerome, "The Slave Market" from 1867.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Divide and Conquer


There are very few good journalists working in Iraq that are A) Not embedded B) Not regurgitating mass information
Ghaith Abdul Ahad is one of these good journalists. Check out his work on the


To get a better idea of what Ghaith is talking about in terms of the neighborhood divisions, check out this map of Baghdad that the NYtimes has put together:


Nada Shabout

2007 was the year that I realized that there is a great academic that is doing Modern and Contemporary Arab/Iraqi art justice. Nada Shabout is a professor of Art History at the University of Northern Texas, and has recently penned a must-have book about Arab Art entitled "Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics"



She wrote a great article about recent art in Iraq, public art specifically, and the new artist groups popping up. Read it below.


Robert Fisk is A Helluva man


Our dear Mr. Fisk has written a very poignant article about the looting of archeological sites in Iraq... Please read it and be informed on one of the greatest losses of history, in history.

Do we even have a right to return?


You know, since the War started in 2003, with its all-around stupid name "Operation Iraqi Freedom", I never thought that the war would hit home as it did in the past five years. Hamdulilah, throughout the Iran-Iraq war and the sanctions, my family seemed spared of the tragedies all around. Instead of going into personal details, I'll tell you exactly what I mean by 'hitting home'. How about finding out that your home, in your homeland, is now 'home' to people you do not know or trust? 
Many Many Iraqi's are finding that, after being encouraged to move back to Iraq after their own stints as refugees are returning to find people, sometimes entire families, living in their home. The worst part is that the baladeeya (local community councils) have been giving people the right (and most of the time, the addresses) of these 'vacant' homes to settle in, without informing the proper owners. 
This opens the door to so many other problems that are both cause and effect of this squatter problem. Shia's being forced out of Sunni-majority areas, Sunni's being forced out of Shia-majority areas, local militias ganging up on households for whatever reason they seem not to fit the bill. What about the paperwork? Is the paperwork of the estate ownership being sold as well? What proof will the original homeowners have to reclaim their land in the near or distant future? 
Man...... what a mess....... what a mess........

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Iraq, the Cradle of Civilization

Watch this video with a cup of turkish coffee and contemplate how the war means so much more than what we think it does.
Be prepared... its long (about an hour), but worth every minute of your time. Its better than watching Entertainment Tonight back to back.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wanna see my Art?

Most of you already know that I am a painter and a graphic designer/artist and an amateur photographer and a... ok, thats enough titles for now. I'll be putting up more art by fellow A-rabs and peers that are up and coming and should be seen. For now, here's me:


Prostitution, Iraqi style

When you have a minute, click these links and read about the plight of Iraqi prostitutes in Iraq and Syria. I'll be posting more about it soon....




Saturday, February 09, 2008

Syria on my mind

Don't get it twisted... I'm still contemplating Mesopotamia... Syria being geographically part of this Ancient landscape. In todays mess of the Middle East, a new Baghdad has sprouted in Damascus. 
I found some interesting studies about the mass exodus of Iraqi Refugees in Syria. Check it out, you'll learn about 1.5 million new things. 




Welcome to part one of part one. Welcome to Mesopotamian Contemplations, where I can finally put down all of my love, pain and anger that stems from and towards the mess that is now Iraq. Everything from politics, history, the refugee crisis, art and culture... keep tuned.