August 12, 2007

Muralists at work in Baghdad

Stephen Farrell in the NYTimes reports: "Dead blocks, they call them, the most visible legacy of the latest war in a city with a long history of wars. Many murals have focused on the glories of Iraq’s pre-Islamic civilizations in hopes of avoiding the ire, and bullets, of Islamist militants, who have killed or driven out thousands of Iraqi artists. For four years these vast concrete slabs have slowly crept through Baghdad, snaking along road, river and sidewalk as they shut out light and encircled ministries, palaces and districts. Now, confronted by the inescapable presence and likely longevity of these blast walls, the city has hired two dozen Iraqi artists to soften their harsh gray solidity by using the city’s past to hide its present. Jamaat al-Jidaar, they call themselves: 'the Wall Group.' Paid modest stipends that start at about $15 a day, they have spent the past month squatting on scaffolds painting images of warriors, kings and myths from past millennia onto 52 slabs of 12-foot-high concrete beside the Tigris River....Perhaps uniquely for artists, usually intent on creating an enduring legacy, the Wall Group’s members look forward to the day their work is destroyed. 'If the security situation stabilizes enough that they throw my work of art away, that will be for the sake of my city,' artist Tahar said. 'The most important thing is for Baghdad to be secure, that children are not being killed. Even if it is at the expense of my art.'" Read more.

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