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The al-Mutanabbi Street Project

Artwork by Nomi Silverman. On display March 26 – May 3, 2015.

Throughout history, cultural destruction has been used to obliterate and control civilizations. Cambodia, Germany, the United States, Iraq, Bosnia, Syria, and Afghanistan have all used this mechanism in recent memory. It has been used for centuries. When society loses its culture, its past, it loses itself.

On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, Iraq, killing 26 people. Al-Mutanabbi Street is located near the old quarter of Baghdad and houses cafés, booksellers, publishers, and alternative press. Almost every Iraqi writer has talked about getting his or her start on al-Mutanabbi Street.

When no public outcry ensued, Beau Beausoleil was outraged. A poet from San Francisco, he started an art books project. Hundreds of artists from around the world created art books around the theme of al-Mutanabbi Street, with the line “al-Mutanabbi Street starts here.” Wherever there are books, and discussion and discourse, is al-Mutanabbi Street.

Last year Beausoleil added printmakers with the portfolio entitled, “Absence and Presence.” Printmakers from around the world, including Ms. Silverman, created prints for this portfolio. This exhibit contains the work created as she searched for the image that she would use for the portfolio. Ms. Silverman has said, “I was immediately drawn to this subject. My work has always dealt with sociopolitical themes and the continuity of the violence and destruction continues to horrify me ….the print matrixes, like society, contain the memory of the image in itself.”

On December 18, 2008, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki officially reopened the street, rebuilt and again vibrant. However, the violence continues. Paris alone needs to remind us of that.

We are all al-Mutanabbi Street.

The al-Mutanabbi Street Project