Statement / Al-Mutanabbi
     

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Iraqi Peace Song

Spirituality and religion never entered into my work until, in 2007, I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. I was immediately drawn to their beauty and found them visually seductive. I was drawn to the shapes of the fragments, as well as the beauty of the decayed sheets of leather on which they were written. Although much has been discovered about the content of the scrolls, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding them: when exactly were they written, who originally hid them in the caves and what do they reveal? What intrigued me about the content of the scrolls was the fact that the text is both biblical and cultural.

 


Iraqi Peace Song

  The manuscripts give us insight into behavior, military regulations, customs, political persecution and spiritual life, something that has always fascinated me. I was also struck by the complexity of the political situation there. While visiting the Golan Heights, I photographed a sculpture of a kneeling soldier pointing a gun. This image has become a haunting motif in my work and creates a political edge to the otherwise unbiased nature of the work. I had no idea that this motif would be returning to my work as part of "Iraqi Peace Song". Another significant element in my work, at that time, was my mother’s music. She was a professional violinist whose career had a great impact on my life. This represents my personal history; the scrolls represent my past history. The ancient Hebrew text coexists with the music while the music transcends language.

When I began the Al-Mutanabbi Street artist's book project, my intent was to make traditionally bound books but, as the process evolved, it became clearer to me that the scroll form made sense in this particular context. The Arabic text is from the poetry of Al-Mutanabbi, considered one of the greatest poets of the Arabic language. I have included my mother's music as a symbol of beauty and hope amidst the ongoing violence and tension in that part of the world. While doing research, I discovered a piece of music called "Iraqi Peace Song" by Lori Tennenhouse and Knut Reiersrud. This is a lullaby featuring cello and choir and is sung in both English and Arabic. It was apparent to me that this needed to be a part of the scrolls as well. I hope that at some point in the near future, I will no longer feel compelled to include the kneeling soldier from the Golan Heights in my work.