About the Exhibit

This exhibit is presented as a resource for those interested in exploring modern Iraqi struggle and resistance through contemporary visual art. It was initially prepared to complement the University Library’s fall 2023 display of material from the Shadow and Light project, providing essential context and connection to Iraqi artists and their histories. The curators hope to center surviving Iraqi artists as they explore their national and artistic identities and respond to the cycles of violence caused by the Iran-Iraq war, sanctions, and occupation. Given our location and personal connections with the large Iraqi community in metro-Detroit, we were able to draw on first hand accounts from primary sources such as Dr. Karim, who generously shared his stories and material from his private collection.


This exhibit was curated by Zainab Hakim and Serena Safawi during the summer 2023 Michigan Library Scholars program at the University of Michigan Library. Evyn Kropf and Jamie Vander Broek served as mentors and provided editorial assistance. Evyn Kropf also provided metadata for the online exhibit. Caitlin Pollock provided guidance on online exhibit structure and accessible image description. Thanks to Gabriel Duque and other contributors to the Michigan Library Scholars program for their support. Finally, special thanks to Dr. Mohammed Karim for sharing with us his knowledge, his experiences, and his photo archive.


Altai, Saad. Facebook post, 23 March 2023. (consulted online) Accessed July 20, 2023.

Art in Iraq Today: Catalog of an exhibition held at Meem Gallery, Dubai 2011, curated by Dia Al-Azzawi and Charles Pocock ; edited by Samar Faruqi. Milano: Skira, 2011. Fine Arts Library N 7267 .A78 2011

Greenberger, Alex. “Arts Organization Decries Denial of Visas to Iraqi Artists in MoMA PS1 Show: ‘It Is Unacceptable’” ARTnews 9 November 2019 (consulted online)  

Hastings Falk, Peter. Contemporary Iraqi Art: Catalog of an exhibition of rotating artworks from the Pomegranate Gallery's collection by Iraqi artists. New York: Pomegranate Gallery Press and Falk Art Reference, 2007. 

Hastings Falk, Peter. “Hana Malallah (Iraqi, b. 1958). The Looting of the Museum of Art.” Lot 178 in Christie’s Live Auction 8060: Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art Part II, 24 Oct 2012 (consulted online)

Hendawi, Hamza. “Painting Captures U.S. Arrogance.” Art History Archive via The Associated Press 2006 (consulted online) Accessed July 20, 2023. 

Jawad, Saad N. Iraq After the Invasion: From Fragmentation to Rebirth and Reintegration. Cham: Springer, 2021. 

Jawad, Sa’ad Naji. “Iraq from Occupation to the Risk of Disintegration.” Contemporary Arab Affairs 9, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 27–48.

“Layla Al Attar (1942-1993).” Isqineeha art platform, 12 February 2011 (consulted online

Al-Najjar, Deborah, and Nadje Al-Ali, editors. We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2013. Hatcher Graduate NX180 .P64 W3 2013

Pope, Hugh. "After Painter Dies, A Myth is Born in Insular Iraq: Baghdadis Believe Ms. Attar was Target of U.S. Bombs because of Bush Portrait Blaming America for Hardship." Wall Street Journal 31 May 2002 p.A1 continued on p.A5

“Reconstructing the Things around Us: Afifa Aleiby on the Role of the Artist in Society.” Ruya Foundation For Contemporary Culture In Iraq 25 January 2017 (consulted online)

Sahakian, Rijin. “Beyond Repair: Regarding Torture at the Berlin Biennale.” Art Forum 29 July 2022 (consulted online)

Salīm, Niẓār. Iraq Contemporary Art: Vol. 1 Painting. Lausanne: Sartec, 1977. Art, Architecture, & Engineering Library N7267 .I65 v.1

Rights Statement

The University of Michigan Library has placed copies of these works online for educational and research purposes. These works may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these works, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about this exhibit, please contact Evyn Kropf or Jamie Vander Broek. If you have any technical problems with this exhibit, please contact ask-omeka@umich.edu.

Art as Resistance