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.