THE DYING MARSHES: IRAQI HERITAGE UNDER THREAT
By Rana Ibrahim
Rana Ibrahim’s artwork tells the story of the humanitarian, political and environmental crisis threatening the marshes of Southern Iraq, an UNESCO world heritage site, and highlights the suffering of the people and animals who live there.
This artwork combines contemporary and ancient imagery and texts, through the medium of collage - all designed to bring this devastating crisis to life. The marshes are drying up and disappearing for two reasons: the impact of the damming of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the result of years of war and conflict, and climate change. A whole way of life is being destroyed, which dates back to ancient Mesopotamia.
Here Rana Ibrahim gives us some insight into the imagery in the artwork and her creative process:
'The process of creating this collage was inspired by a hashtag in Arabic and English used by the Iraqi Women’s Academic Network (IWAN) to highlight this crisis: #Save_Iraqi_Marshes.
'As an Iraqi artist I wanted to help raise awareness, so began to gather together all sorts of materials to tell this story – you’ll see magazine and article cuttings, photographs, words, and different paints and textures, including shredded paper to represent the reeds and boats. I’ve particularly focussed on the impact on people and animals, as their home is being destroyed.
'You’ll see lots of fishes, birds and buffalo who are dying out as the marshes dry up – and some of the women who produce and sell Geymar, a delicious cream made from Buffalo milk, traditionally eaten at breakfast served with honey, bread and date's syrup.
'These are amazing, strong women, but their livelihoods and identity are under threat. I represent women frequently, shown praying for help or as powerful women.
'The famous Iraqi stamp dated 1971 represents the heyday of tourism in Iraq, when visitors came to the marshes before the war started in the early 1980s.
'I’ve also included images of ancient Mesopotamian objects and cuneiform to connect past and present. The ancient people of the marshes relied on making a living from life on the water, just as people do today.'
Discover more about Rana's work and Iraqi Women Art and War