London exhibition shows Iraqi artists persevering

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Iraq s artists give proof of their resilience despite the ongoing conflict in an exhibition that opened in London this week.

Riding on Fire: Iraqi Art Under Occupation at the Artiquea Gallery in south-west London is showing 42 works produced by 21 Iraqi artists since the 2003 invasion of the country, including paintings, bronzes, sculptures and ceramics.

The exhibition saluted the courage of the artists, who were forced to establish a secret web to overcome threats posed by occupation forces, vicious militia groups, corrupt police and criminals.

The idea of this exhibition started six months ago, Haifa Zangana, the exhibition s coordinator, told AFP.

I know some of the artists and I have been in touch with them since I arrived in London in the mid-1970s.

In a marked contrast to the often grim realities of Iraq, the majority of the works on display are colorful, which gallery director Hussam Mohamed said was because the artists were trying to escape the war.

They paint about childhood and cities of their dreams, not about the real world. It s a way for them to say that they continue to exist and that life goes on.

Zangana said that in modern-day Iraq, sectarian and pro-occupation parties … have a different conception of what art should be. Artists cannot satisfy them all. If they do not please them they are targeted.

As a result, she estimated that 80 percent of Iraq s artists had fled the country since 2003.

The exhibition will run at the Artiquea Gallery, which specializes in Middle Eastern art, until Oct. 31. -AFP

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