08 March 2013

An evening about Al-Mutanabbi Street

On Tuesday, the culmination of considerable planning - the event at the Iraqi Cultural Centre to commemorate  the bombing on the "street of the booksellers" in Baghdad. Three books that had survived(?) the bombing were present -
14 UK book artists sent or brought books for the display - thanks to Sarah Jacobs, Wuon-Gean Ho, Hazel Grainger, Karen Apps, Christina Mitrentse, Libby Scarlett, Jane Kenelly, Angie Butler, Ama Bolton, Noelle Griffiths, Gwen Simpson, Batool Showghi, Linda Toigo, Christine Pereira-Adams, Janet Bradley. (I had a book there too.) You can find the books in the galleries here.
It wasn't an ideal position for the display, given that people were using the corridor to get to their seats - on the other hand, there was much stopping and looking -
photo: Sabine Thoele
Miriam Halahmy reads; with journalist Waheda Al-Mikdadi
The audience was a good size, interested in and affected by the poetry readings (in English and Arabic) -
photo: Sabine Thoele
The main organiser was Janet Bradley, whose words of introduction were also poetic -
The readers were Miriam Halahmy, Fred Feigel - an MA student at SOAS who read a poem by Iraq's most famous poet, Al-Mutanabbi (10th century) - and Adnan Al-Sayegh (more of his work here), with translations read by David Bradley. Ibtesam Al-Tahir read from her article about the owner of the legendary Shabandar cafe, who lost six members of the family; when the cafe was destroyed, he said was like losing another family member. We watched a short film by Amal Al-Jubouri, and I said a few words along the lines of "what is an artists book" -
photo: Sabine Thoele
Another important aspect of the evening was conversation -
photo: Sabine Thoele
Afterward, I was so busy yomping down a tasty plate of Iraqi food that I forgot to take a photo, but there were two kinds of kibbeh, which added another dimension to Miriam's poem about watching her mother-in-law make kibbeh.

Tony Wallis took a video of the evening, and edited it; divided into six parts, it's now (Sept13) on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM1kFbayABGNNWam9sbR1ug

Meanwhile, in Manchester, at the exhibition of Al-Mutanabbi Street project books at the John Rylands Library, about 20 people attended a tour of the exhibition - Ama Bolton writes about it here.

The forthcoming event in Newcastle (in August) is mentioned on Theresa Easton's blog, which has good links -
(update:  since the exhibition opened, at the beginning of August, she's written various blog posts on it, for example

The Al-Mutanabbi Street project has been written about in the Huffington Post

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