6 July 2013
The Iraqi Pavilion, named “Welcome to Iraq”, is part of the Collateral Events of Venice Biennale and it is located near San Tomà vaporetto station in the beautiful sestiere San Polo.
What immediately surprises you is that the pavilion is located in an ancient house, not in a museum nor a space specifically used for exhibitions.
I find this choice brilliant, especially after having seen the artworks and understing the idea behind it. The aim of the curator and of the artists participating is to show everyday life of Iraqi people, and a house could perfectly become the ideal context for this purpose.
The house has an intimate dimension and is surely representative of who we are and where we come from, which is our culture of reference, which are our habits and so on.
According to this, the curator tried to recreate a typical Iraqi house, where the visitors can walk around and seat wherever they like to rest, taking the time to browse books and newspaper left on the tables of the apartment while enjoying a good cup of tea and tasty Iraqi halawiyat.
I think that including the artworks inside a typical Iraqi ambiance hides the will to show the most private and intimate side of the Iraqi culture itself, far from the media exposure about Iraq we are used to but yet still strongly linked to it and to the historical facts this country has gone through and still live.
The books we find in the living room range from the birth of Mesopotamian civilization to the most recent history of the country. This I believe in order to reiterate that Iraq has an extremely rich history which contains the roots of the whole world culture and civilization. Surely years of dictatorship and wars had a lot of consequences which inevitably affected the work of art, but still there is the will to keep the past as a reference.
The pavilion presents a selection of works of 11 artists that live and work in Iraq (namely Abdul Raheem Yassir, Furat Al Jamil, Jamal Penjweny, Akeel Khreef, Hareth Alhomaam, Ali Samiaa, Cheeman Ismaeel, Bassim Al-Shaker, Khadeem Nwami, WAMI). One of the artists I appreciated the most was Abdul Rahem Yassir, a cartoonist that shows the contradictions of his country using a bitter irony. One of his works is represented also on the totes offered by the pavilion. Another work I really much enjoyed is the one of Jamal Penjweny. The work’s title is “Saddam is Here” and it consist in a sequence of pictures that depict Iraqi people in their everyday life who are carrying Saddam’s picture on their face, showing to the public the harsh and lasting effects that Saddam’s regime had on the country.
These are the artists that impressed me the most, but I believe that each of them deserves a wider space to explain and express their art. What I can feel as a common point of them all is a certain nostalgia of what was Iraq and the bitterness they feel towards what Iraq has become. They feel the vulnerability of their lives and yet recognize that the only way for them is making out with everyday life.