Friday, December 16, 2005

Iraqi Art: The Internet is your illustrated book



I'm doing a little long-range preparation for next fall's course on "The History of Islamic Civilization." I'm reading a recently released book on the Iraqi experience of the current war, written by an Arabic-speaking American reporter, Anthony Shadid. I'm impressed. It's well written and I especially like the fact that Shadid makes no claims to omniscience. The copy I'm reading is from the Nipissing University library and will be returning there soon.

An unexpected pleasure in the book was being introduced to Muhammed Ghani, a well-known Iraqi sculptor who has created a lot of public monuments in the course of his life. Shadid makes Ghani and his work sound very interesting, and so I fired up my computer to find some pictures. And sure enough, I found a few. Not too many, and not of great quality, but they do exist, and if you use Google Images you'll find them.

Here's Ghani himself in his workshop:



Here's an unlabelled sculture I found:



And another from the from the ArtIraq site:



Neither of these look particularly monumental. Here, however, is a third which commemorates the heroine Khahramana, the slave girl who killed the 40 theives by pouring burning oil on them:



It looks more like a sketch for the monument than the monument itself.

My thanks to Anthony Shadid for including Ghani in his book. I've read a lot about Iraq but never anything about its art. But if I'd thought to look, there is plenty of contemporary Iraqi art of all sorts available on the Internet.

Just like there is plenty of everything else, if you look.

Note: by one of those odd transformations that happens so often, "Ali Baba" has become Iraqi slang for "thief," even though he was the most prominent non-thief in the story.




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