Tuesday, 12 April 2011

An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street

On 5 March 2007 a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. More than 30 people were killed and 100 wounded.

Al-Mutanabbi Street is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. It's the historic centre of Baghdad bookselling, with bookstores and outdoor stalls, cafés, stationery shops, tea and tobacco shops... It's been the heart of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community since the 13th century.

The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition was formed as a response to the bombing, to honour the street by creating work that holds both "memory and future" - what was lost that day. To this end it devised and curated the Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project, and completed its call to letterpress printers after reaching a goal of 130 broadsides from 130 individual printers. Thanks to the efforts of writer Evelyn Conlon, thirty of the resulting broadsides were recently exhibited in The Market House in Monaghan and the Central Library, ILAC Centre, Dublin.

Now the coalition is calling on book artists to work on An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street in order to "re-assemble" some of the "inventory" of the reading material that was lost in the bombing. The curators of the project are Beau Beausoleil of San Francisco's Overland Books and Sarah Bodman of the Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE Bristol.

I have joined An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street by making a commitment to produce and contribute an edition of three of a new chapbook of poems within one year (by end March 2012). One complete set of the 130 responses to the call will be donated to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad; the other two sets will be used in conjunction with shows of the broadsides as well as in shows of their own.

Participants in the project are not precluded from producing additional copies of their books to sell / exhibit / use however they wish. I haven't yet decided whether to do so, or to what extent. But I have settled on a concept for the book and began work on it. I'll be posting on its progress over the coming months.

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