Janet Bradley shared images from Al Mutanabbi Street and photos from the street inspired by the books and art projects she was involved in. Presentations by Bradley, poetry readings in many languages, projects and slideshows of influential art took place at the even in the Library Hall.
No one was more surprised by the shock than Mr Beausoleil. When he asked artists for a book in memory of Al Mutanabbi Street’s loss, a double number arrived in various forms and media. The initial call for broadsides exceeded expectations with more than 130 prints;. However, not one person was safe from the tragic bomb. It killed 40 people, and many were injured. The event was still ingrained in the collective’s mind. He did not realize this until artists shared their pieces, highlighting the events.
Cartwright would have benefited from focusing on March 5, 2007, the day of the bombings, from keeping the project’s vision clear. Still, it has evolved and embraces the work of many people who have worked there. It is essential to think as much about Al Mutanabbi as a physical and symbolic place.
Writing from the ashes
Lutfiya al-Dulaima, an Iraqi writer who now lives in Jordan, wrote about the importance of the street for the writer. She reported on the project for a Baghdad newspaper and said the project was well known in Iraq.
Her work transfers the idea of pain and infirmity to the human body by mapping Baghdad with wounded bodies and Al-Mutanabbi Street with scars. The work she shows in the mosaic room is part of a thread that illuminates the street and the beginning of an exhibition. She examines the relationship between these ideas: it is not a place of pain, no identity. For them, the most critical question is how we define solidarity.
The street carries a great legacy, named after the 10th-century classical poet. The street has been a refuge for writers of all faiths since at least the 8th century. Today, the rubble has been cleared, and the road is recovering. But many Iraqi writers living in exile because of ongoing sectarian violence have not returned.
These attacks are part of a long history of attacks on the printed word, attacks on all of us. The books produced here to show the similarities between al-Mutanabbi Street and the widespread bookstores and cultural institutions. We hope that these books will be used as touchstones by al-Mutanabbi and his printers, writers, booksellers and readers. We also hope to make visible the literary bridges that bind us and the words and images that move readers in Iraq and ourselves.
Change is coming
Muhammad Ali captured the moment with a friend at Iraq’s most famous book market. Mohammed was browsing in al-Mutanabi Street when he read. United by their passion for the word, they believed that peace in Iraq lay in literacy.
Al-Nujaifi Street was destroyed in the battle to retake the city. It took Al-Krikchy more than a year to rebuild the road and reopen it to trade. After the liberation of Mosul, book lover Fahad al-Gburi believed that the only way for people to recover from the trauma of war was to rebuild the cities’ culture.
Iraq last year saw the most significant protest movement since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, whose epicentre was Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand the ouster of Iraq’s entire political elite, whom they accused of incompetence, corruption, and ties to neighbouring Iran. The movement helped bring in new leaders, and it carried out essential reforms across the country. But after months of street battles killed 600 demonstrators and injured thousands more, the movement lost momentum and came to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Organize and demand
He said he had written to the cabinet to impose a watertight curfew and deploy police at night to prevent people from going out. Even if a total curfew is imposed, the coronavirus’s geographical spread will continue to spread, and al-Rasafa Hospital will not be able to accommodate the number of cases, he said.
Despite the number of the virus and months of violent street protests against the government, it is not an option for die-hard book lovers to stay at home, even if it means wearing a face mask. But that hasn’t stopped them from going to Mutanabbi Street. They should take the opportunity to sit with their friends and organize the takeover.