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Traces of Survival: Drawings of Refugees in Iraq Selected by Ai Weiwei

by Tamara Chalabi and Philippe Van Cauteren Mercatorfonds
Pub Date:
Hbk 152 pages
AU$52.99 NZ$56.51
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Traces of Survival communicates to the world visually the tragedies that have befallen entire communities in Iraq due to the ISIS onslaught that has left over 1.8 million people internally displaced. The drawings in this book were created by the refugees in three camps in northern Iraq. Representatives from the Ruya Foundation took simple art materials to the camps and ndash; sketch books, pencils, felt tip pens, pastels, erasers and sharpeners and ndash; and invited people to tell the world about their feelings and experiences through their drawings and words. The first camp, near Dohuk, was newly built and sheltered over 4,000 Yezidi families, all refugees from Mount Sinjar. Their participation in the project seemed to be collectively therapeutic and its intensity was extremely moving. Baharka, the second camp, was home to over 8,000 families, mostly from in and around Mosul. Many elderly people were involved, who often chose poetry when images failed them. The third camp, in Ainkawa, was overpopulated and under-resourced. Situated in the grounds of a Catholic church, it housed over 135 families from the Christian village of Karakosh, outside Mosul. The drawings from each camp demonstrate the specific fears and concerns of those temporarily living there: farmers, teachers, mothers, lawyers. The project was devised as an exhibition to accompany the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015, commissioned by the Ruya Foundation. It was difficult to imagine participating in Venice without giving some context to the unimaginable horrors endured by individuals, especially women and those from certain religious groups, under ISIS in Iraq. Therefore it seemed appropriate to use the visual language of art to communicate the refugees and rsquo; experiences to the biennale and rsquo;s audience. The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture believes that the simple visual language of the drawings transcends borders and national identity, so humanising the plight of victims of terrorism and violence in an accessible way. All 350 drawings are included in the book and Ai Weiwei and rsquo;s selection of 80 is prominently presented. Traces of Survival will be launched at the Venice Biennale in May 2015 with proceeds from sales going to the artists.
Tamara Chalabi is chairman of the Ruya Foundation. Philippe Van Cauteren is director of S.M.A.K and curator of the Iraq Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.