It is too often the case when Iraq, and particularly Baghdad, gain a global attention for all the wrong reasons. In an attempt to improve its somewhat dubious reputation, the local municipality prompted a citywide facelift. Standing out among the many beautification projects throughout the Iraqi capital in recent years are a series of four sculptures made by a local renowned artist. One of which, the Save Iraqi Culture Monument, depicts the national endeavor to preserve the country’s cultural heritage.
The second most populous city in the Arab-speaking world after Cairo, Baghdad boasts an incredibly long and rich history. However, due to ongoing conflicts and sectarian violence, the city along with the country as a whole, are seldom perceived as a legitimate tourist destination. To combat its unflattering image, Baghdad recently launched multiple beautification projects, aiming to reshape the cityscape and make it more pleasant, walkable and aesthetic.
In 2010, the Baghdad-born sculptor Mohammed Ghani Hikmat, was tasked by the then mayor to erect a series of four sculptures across the Iraqi capital. Regarded as one of the most revered artists in the country, Ghani was nicknamed the “sheik of sculptors” for creating some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Freedom Monument and the Kahramana fountain. As Ghani opted to reflect the rich cultural heritage of Iraq in his 2010’s works, he incorporated ancient and legendary motifs into all 4 sculptures.
Out of the four newly-constructed statues, none were as politically-explicit and culturally confident as the Save Iraqi Culture Monument. Located in front of a busy roundabout in Baghdad’s Mansour district, the sculpture features a fractured replica of an ancient Sumerian cylinder seal, physically supported by a multi-arm figure. The cylindrical carved stone is engraved with a cuneiform inscription, bearing the phrase ” writing began here”, a reference to Mesopotamia’s role as the cradle of modern manuscript.
As you can imagine, the cylinder-shaped structure stands for the Iraqi culture which according to Ghani is under a severe threat, thereby, relying on multiple muscled hands to prevent its impending collapse. The famed sculptor died in 2011, while the monument was still under construction. Following his death, Ghani’s son followed in his father’s footsteps and became the project’s supervisor, overseeing the successful completion of the sculpture.
photography by: Safa.daneshvar/ Wikimedia Commons
photography by: Abdullah Falah/ Wikimedia Commons
photography by: Ammar0780/ Wikimedia Commons