Blast of art

Iraqi artist imag­ines life in a bomb suit.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART - By JeAn MArC Mo­Jon

THE man in the bulky bomb dis­posal suit waved at a gag­gle of awed chil­dren as he walked down a Bagh­dad street and sat out­side a small cafe to drink tea.

But there was no bomb to defuse on Rasheed Street that day, and no armour in­side the black suit to pro­tect him from ex­plo­sives.

Iraqi artist Hus­sein Adil de­signed the mock bomb suit – com­plete with huge hel­met and vi­sor – him­self for this per­for­mance.

“We had to make this one be­cause there aren’t many bomb suits in Iraq,” he said.

“We have to be one of the coun­tries in the world that needs them the most.”

Adil, a wispy 20- year- old with a wild head of tight curly hair, is one of an ever grow­ing num­ber of Iraqi artists look­ing for new ways of tack­ling the vi­o­lence they grew up with.

The in­spi­ra­tion for his “bomb suit hap­pen­ing” was the death last year in a sui­cide car bomb­ing of his close friend Ammar al- Shah­ban­der, a much- loved jour­nal­ist.

Adil, Shah­ban­der and two other friends were head­ing to a cafe to drink tea in Bagh­dad’s Kar­rada district when an im­por­tant call came in on his mo­bile phone.

“I told them to go ahead, that I would fol­low them in five min­utes,” said Adil.

He heard an ex­plo­sion mo­ments later. Af­ter search­ing for them for hours, he found one of his friends with a head in­jury in hos­pi­tal and was told that Shah­ban­der had been killed.

Two weeks later, he dreamt that a bomb would go off near a square in cen­tral Bagh­dad and, af­ter wak­ing up, im­me­di­ately called his friends and his father to tell them.

An ex­plo­sion rocked the ex­act spot later that day.

“My friends called me to ask me how I knew, it was a very strange thing,“he said, adding it was then that he started look­ing for ways to ex­press his angst through art.

Bagh­dad has been rocked by hun­dreds of car bombs over the years, some­times sev­eral in a day dur­ing pe­ri­ods when vi­o­lence peaked.

Those blasts and other at­tacks have killed tens of thou­sands of civil­ians and left many res­i­dents with deep trauma that re­mains when vi­o­lence ebbs, as is the case now in the city.

Adil thought of a sim­ple per­for­mance, dur­ing which his friend Mus­lim would go about nor­mal daily ac­tiv­i­ties in Bagh­dad wear­ing a bomb suit.

“I thought, why isn’t there some kind of out­fit that can pro­tect us? Other ap­proaches pro­duced no re­sults so I looked at in­di­vid­ual so­lu­tions,” said Adil.

The de­crepit charm of the once glo­ri­ous Rasheed Street’s or­nate ar­cades and derelict the­atres pro­vides an odd back­drop for the dark fig­ure ca­su­ally walk­ing in full mock ord­nance dis­posal gear.

As they saw Mus­lim trudg­ing along, arms asway and head en­sconced in a mas­sive bal­lis­tic col­lar, some passers- by seemed alarmed or amused.

Oth­ers barely turned their heads to look.

Fol­lowed by his friend Adil, Mus­lim walked into build­ings to chat with peo­ple, or­dered tea at a cafe and in­quired about prices at a tai­lor’s shop.

Af­ter two peo­ple helped him out of his bomb suit, Mus­lim spoke of the many thoughts that rushed through his mind.

“I knew it wasn’t a real suit ... but at one point I ac­tu­ally felt it was pro­tect­ing me and started imag­in­ing all the things I could do,” he said. – AFP

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