MoMA PS1 presents an afternoon of programming that examines the destruction of Iraqi heritage by the allied forces during the Gulf wars. Scholarship and mainstream attention surrounding the destruction and preservation of cultural heritage in Iraq have tended to focus largely on antiquity. This critical conversation expands this scope to not only address archeological sites and artifacts, but to also focus on the living contemporary culture of Iraq, posing questions about how culture is perceived, instrumentalized, and valued during times of war and occupation.
Medical anthropologist Omar Dewachi, whose research focuses on the intersection of global health, the history of medicine, and political anthropology, leads the discussion. He is joined by Zahra Ali, Zainab Bahrani, David Harvey, and Zainab Saleh. Following the presentations, participants will come together in a conversation moderated by Ali.
The discussion is followed by a concert from renowned Iraqi maqam vocalist Hamid Al-Saadi performing with the celebrated ensemble Safaafir featuring Amir ElSaffar. The maqam is an integral part of Iraqi culture and is included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The maqam’s melodies, rhythms, and poetry are a reflection of Iraq’s history, geography, culture, and folklore, passed on orally from generation to generation.
Founded in 2006 by Amir and Dena ElSaffar, Safaafir is the only US-based ensemble dedicated to performing the Iraqi maqam. They perform the maqam in its traditional format, while also incorporating jazz, classical, and other Middle Eastern styles. The group regularly performs with Al-Saadi who is the only person in his generation to have mastered all 56 maqamat from the Baghdadi repertoire. Together this group of musicians are intent on securing the survival of the maqam at a time when so many elements of this tradition are in danger of extinction.
Hamid Al-Saadi is an Artist Protection Fund Fellow.