Nancy Bardos

Nancy Bardos

An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street starts today in the Lit & Phil Library.  The exhibition embedded within the library shelves, is a display of 50 books from the collection of over 200 books.  The exhibition offers  visitors an emotive response to the bombing of an historical street in Baghdad over 6 years ago, where over 130 people were killed or maimed.   To handle some of the books and experience the emotion the subjects cover illicit’s unexpected feelings, it is a privilege to handle the work.  Unpacking the books, felt ritualistic and spiritual.  Nancy Bardos, has lovingly wrapped her work and planned for the innumerable exhibition displays around the world, providing concise and clear assembling instructions.




Lovers of books. Those were the people who populated al-Mutanabbi Street for centuries, gathering to buy and sell books, to read and discuss the ideas and ideals their authors extolled. All that ceased on a dark and dangerous day in March 2007. Through my artist books, We Shall Always Return and Book Seeds I and II, I honor the human lives lost and the unimaginable suffering that occurred that day. I pay homage to the sharing of ideas and the freedom to explore cultures, opinions, art and history that the al-Mutanabbi Street book lovers hungered for and embraced.

In the beginning, I had difficulty defacing the books used in my project. But by doing so I watched them slowly transform into symbols of the renewal and rebirth that will surely happen no matter how many books are banned or burned or blown up due to narrow worldviews.  I relish the process and the certainty that the roots and seeds of ideas will always yield harvests. Writers will always write. Readers will always read their words.  Nancy Bardos, Ashland, Oregon, USA, 2013

An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street

On March 5th 2007, a car bomb was exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Street is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, holds bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and tobacco shops. It has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street represents over 200 handmade books  made by artists and poets in response to the bombing. 

books in cabinet


books on shelves.jpg2.jpg3


11 thoughts on “An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street

  1. I’ve been today. Couldn’t wait to get my hands on them…. In the white gloves of course… It was wonderful. First time to the lit and phil so was a amazing experience. Many thanks Theresa for organising it x

  2. Amazing work for an amazing project. The whole world can be so big and yet so small, like Al-Mutanabbi Street, where books from all over the world could find no discrimination. It is great that we have been so lucky to have them to the Lit & Phil thanks to Theresa Easton. The variety of books is what intrigues me, some able to move you to tears. Amazing experience, thanks to all who took part in it.

  3. Pingback: John Rylands Library Manchester: An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street | Annette's Blog

  4. It would be wonderful to have a list of the books/artists included in the show – are they all from the UK, or is there a wider representation?

    I hope many people will be introduced to the project – and to artists books – through this exhibition! Thank you for making it happen.

  5. Its a must-see show! I saw the exhibit at the John Rylands Library, and the artist books are powerful, very special.
    Thank you for pulling this together Theresa – exhibiting Book Artist, Catherine Cartwright

  6. Theresa…..thank you so so much for mounting this exhibit. how I wish I could walk around it and see it in person….but I so appreciate the chance to see it through the photos. it has been a tremendous thrill to be a part of it all. thank you again for all you and your colleagues are doing! Nancy Bardos

  7. As an established iraqi writer living in Newcastle and great admirer of the Lit@ Phil library, as well using this mganificent library as inspiration place . I wonder if you know that there is over twenty thousand Iraqies living in the North East? have you ever thouth contacting them and include them in this project? after all it is about their culture and life. Since 2005 I have been visiting Iraq on a regulare bases and sepending most of my time , while there, at the Mutanabbi st. with other Iraqi colleaques, regradless of the harassment ,by the iraqi Islamist authority, we still meet to protests or celabrate reading

    • Hello and thank you for your comment and interest in the project. Yes, the project is about reaching out to different communities, including the Iraqi community. It is an international project and with each opportunity to exhibit the work, the project attracts attention and creates discussion. Please do forward onto your community, other than the exhibition of work and opportunity to look at some of the books, Sheree Mack is delivering a writing workshop 17th August and Theresa Easton (me) will be delivering a print & book making workshop. It would be lovely to meet and engage some new members and established members in the sessions. lastly we want to organise an event on 23rd September, maybe we should talk?

      thanks again for your comment

  8. Pingback: Visiting artist Helen Zughaib initiates the Al-Mutanabbi Street starts here program at George Mason University - Post - Arab America

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