Saturday, December 5, 2009
reportback: Remembering Iraq*
This is a summary of what we organized yesterday, hoping it will inspire you to organize similar events in your exile.
Yesterday, approximately twenty Iraqi youth from various backgrounds gathered in Doha to unravel the different layers of their identities in a night of “Remembering Iraq.” The event was organized by a small number of young Iraqis striving to create a space where art and culture can be used as a vehicle for discussion and expression during times when young voices seem to be muted by overbearing and destructive discussions.
The night kicked off with an outdoor screening of “Fragments in Iraq,” where the eyes of viewers followed the tremendous experiences of Mohammed, an eleven year old boy living and working in Baghdad. The film, beautifully shot with a simple digital camera, brought the larger than life sights and sounds of a city and people dealing with the aftermath of war to the makeshift theatre. Although organizers chose not to show the entirety of the film due to time constraints, the cinematic experience was a great boost for a night that would be filled with creativity and expression.
Following the film, seats were arranged in a circle to facilitate the next segment: Show and Tell. Attendees were asked to bring an item or story to share with the rest of the group as a way of allowing one’s identity to reflect on the experience of the other. It was also a tremendous learning experience for people to hear the streets and people of Iraq speak through the stories that were being told. Many of the memories told were very intimate, describing days of loss, separation, and longing. Others spoke of the beauty of Baghdad, and her ability to overcome all that which is thrown at her. Some of the participants, discussed the presence of Iraq in their lives outside the country.
By this time in the night, Baghdad was everywhere. On the tongues, in the eyes, between the hands, and all across the hearts of the group. As the story circle parted, a large piece of canvas was unrolled and participants were asked to paint a large mural to Iraq, her people, and her place in people’s consciousnesses. For two hours, people buzzed around the painting adding words, cutouts, paint strokes, tire marks, and glitter to create an embodiment of their night. The painting, left to dry overnight, will always act as a catalyst for further discussion and action.
After food, the night extended into the early hours of the morning with an open mic segment where song, dance, and poetry serenaded Iraq, and the beauty of her people. People went away feeling empowered, and ready to organize bigger and better events.
The strength of yesterday’s event doesn’t only lie in its ability to capture and share broken memories, but in its strength in paving a way for the future where Iraqi youth are active participants in the fate of their country and Iraqi communities all around the world.