Seeing war in Iraq and art, exhibition in The Hague, The Netherlands

This video is about refugee Iraqi artists Hana Mal Allah and Rashad Selim. Aya gallery, London 2007.

Though it was a rainy and stormy day, today to The Hague. Why?

From Dutch daily NRC, paper edition, 20 October 2007:

In The Hague, yesterday the new art exhibition place Gemak started, a result of coöperation by the Free Academy and the The Hague Municipal Museum. The first exhibition is about Iraq … [called] Green Zone/Red Zone, showing work of both European and Iraqi artists. Gemak calls itself a ‘center for art, society, and politics‘. …

Iraqi artist Rashad Selim during the past two months was a guest of the Free Academy. He already left his native country in 1983 and has lived in London since …

In 2003, I went back to Baghdad. The city looked like a monstrous dinner table, with bits bitten off everywhere; and it becomes worse day by day. It will get worse still. Once, Baghdad used to have forty galleries. Now, there is said to be just one, which sometimes is open, and sometimes is not’.

You can see anger clearly in many of the exhibited works. For instance, there is a series of monumental collages by the British artists’ duo Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillipps, made from pages from tabloids like The Sun and bleeding Arabic newspapers. The artists worked at the images for a long time with hammers and razors until they looked ragged.

Of the Iraqi artist Hana Mal Allah, who left Iraq as one of the last artists, there are three maps of Baghdad. With some imagination, one can still see the river Tigris. However, the rest of the city maps is scorched pitch black. …

Green Zone/Red Zone. Until 31 January [2008] in Gemak, Paviljoensgracht 20, The Hague.

The artists in this exhibition are:

* Marc Bijl (Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1973). He contributed three big stars in the colours of the Iraqi flag, stained by the occupation in black and bloody colours.
* Peter Kennard (London, 1949) & Cat Picton Phillips (Edinburgh, 1972). One of their big works here is Policy papers from 2007. It shows Gordon Brown and Tony Blair (sitting comfortably, however, with blood stains on Blair) on one half. On the other half, Iraqis watching in horror as another one of their people dies.
* Paul Chan (Hong Kong, 1973; lives in the USA). He has a video, recorded in 2003, just after the invasion, about a female Iraqi Britney Spears fan in her early teens. Is she still alive by now?
* Rashad Selim (Khartoum, Sudan, 1957; lives in London).
* Hana Mal Allah (Thee Qar, Irak, 1958).
* Adel Abidin (Baghdad, 1973; lives in Finland). He had a video of a small Iraqi girl, learning to pronounce “standard vocabulary” words. Words like: genocide; oil; Bush.
* Nedim Kufi (Baghdad, 1962; lives in the Netherlands).
* Wafaa Bilal (Iraq 1966; lives in the USA).
* Open Shutters Project (Iraq / UK). In this exhibition, that project showed photos and statements by Iraqi women about how the war ruined their lives. One of them recalled how just before Bush’s invasion she had predicted at work that occupation would make the lives of Iraqis worse than Palestinians’. Her colleagues, back then, had laughed. ‘Today, all they can do is cry’.
* Independent Film & Television College, Baghdad. This college is still called ‘Baghdad’. However, like so many other Iraqis, they have fled to Damascus in Syria. One of their short documentary films was about refugees: Iraqis who had fled to another part of Iraq, where there used to be a fun fair before the occupation; to live there in tents. And about other Iraqis, planning to flee across the border. As the college itself did in 2006.

Another documentary film by them is about a café in Baghdad, which used to be patronized by many artists and intellectuals, but is closed now. One of the patrons told how, just after the 2003 invasion, he wanted to find out whether the USA was really a country of democracy, as they proclaimed; or a “McCarthyist, oppressive” USA. He proposed plans to democratize Iraq. He continued that Paul Bremer, then the US colonial governor in Iraq, did nothing with those plans, and ruled autocratically.

This exhibition shows so much more clearly than corporate media news how George W. Bush’s war has destroyed and keeps destroying the lives and culture of ordinary people in Iraq.

Many Iraqis in Syria fled during U.S. troop buildup: here.

2 thoughts on “Seeing war in Iraq and art, exhibition in The Hague, The Netherlands

  1. Pingback: Art in war-torn occupied Iraq | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: British anti war artist Peter Kennard | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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