Phoenix of Mesopotamia: Revitalizing the Boat-building Heritage of Southern Iraq as a Living Art Form

 |  Research on the Arts Program  |  2020  |  Iraq
Dr Jaafar Jotheri (Faculty of Archaeology, University of Al-Qadisiyah, Iraq) and Rashad Salim (Safina Projects)
This project builds upon fieldwork conducted by the artist Rashad Salim, who has studied since 2016 the vernacular boatbuilding practices of Iraq in their local contexts, informed by the archaeological and archival record of Iraq’s intangible heritage. Boat-making as an art form (understood as such by its communities of origin and by artists since ancient times) lies at the core of the project, which foregrounds the role of artistic practice and the aesthetic dimension of experience in investigating such forms of cultural heritage. Boats as literal and metaphorical vessels of expedition and ‘crossing over’ – between distant yet interrelated time periods, fields of knowledge, international, diasporic and local communities – make possible a reciprocal relationship with multiple disciplines: archaeology, anthropology, and architecture / urban design to name a few. The enquiry draws upon existing knowledge in each field and disseminates new knowledge in accessible forms, notably through a publication linked with the Iraqi National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Architettura 2021; a curriculum unit for Iraqi universities; and a permanent exhibition at Basra Museum.