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?