‘Guardian of Nineveh’: Iraqi statue destroyed by Daesh recreated, showcased in the heart of London

Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz poses in front of his sculpture ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’ on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London on Thursday after it was unveiled. (AFP)
Updated 30 March 2018
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‘Guardian of Nineveh’: Iraqi statue destroyed by Daesh recreated, showcased in the heart of London

LONDON: An ancient Iraqi statue that was destroyed by Daesh but has been recreated in the heart of the UK capital is proving a talking point for residents and visitors.
The sculpture, called “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist,” is a life-size replica of a 2,700-year-old lamassu, an Assyrian deity in the form of winged bull with a human head that stood guard at the entrance to Nergal Gate in Nineveh, near present-day Mosul in Iraq.
Daesh militants smashed the original to pieces in 2015, but it has now been recreated by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, using recycled cans that contained another treasure from Iraq — date syrup.
The replica now occupies the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square and, 24 hours after its unveiling, was attracting a throng of admirers.
“It’s quite impressive,” said Oliver Bishop, 45, who works for an energy company and had braved a heavy downpour to view the new sculpture during his lunch break. “It represents something of great historic value that was destroyed and it’s a nice gesture to preserve it in London because many people might not have heard about the destruction of art that is going on in Iraq.”
“I really like it,” said retired teacher Richard Mills, 60, who was eagerly taking photographs of the sculpture. “I’ve seen the original plans this was chosen from and it’s a good choice. (We need) to keep the idea present in our memories of what’s happening in Iraq. It’s colorful, and on a sunny day it will be striking.”



The sculpture was chosen from a shortlist of six and is part of a larger project by Rakowitz. The Chicago-based artist is gradually reconstructing the entire database of 7,000 works looted from the National Museum of Iraq in 2003 or destroyed at archaeological sites in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
“It is great to remind people of the terrible destruction of artworks. We will never get them back,” said office manager Eve Thompson, 66. “And this sculpture fits in very well in Trafalgar Square.”
Joe Wills, a 37-year-old musician, was moved by the lamassu’s cladding — a covering made from 10,500 tin cans that once contained one of Iraq’s most valuable products, date syrup.
“This ancient work of art was destroyed because of war and the date industry from modern-day Iraq has also been damaged because of war,” he said.
Britain’s part in that war, beginning with the invasion in 2003, must be acknowledged, he said.
“It’s important to bring it back to the action that this country has been involved in and to show the impact of what has been going on.”
Despite heavy rain, people crowded around the plinth to read the plaque explaining how the statue was created and what it represents. Rakowitz had watched footage of the original being destroyed by Daesh. The looting and wanton destruction were a key point in the war, he said.
“It didn’t matter if you were for or against the war, we could agree that this was a catastrophe. It wasn’t simply a local Iraqi loss but a loss for the whole of humanity.”
The ancient treasure of Nineveh and Trafalgar Square seem fated to come together. Researching archaeological sketches, Rakowitz discovered the length of the lamassu was exactly the same as Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, which has showcased a rolling program of contemporary art since 2003. His tin-can statue will stay on the site for two years.
However, the sculptor’s vision found little favor with Mohammed Shehab Ahmed, 66, a surgeon who has lived in Britain for 20 years but is originally from Basra.
“Is this supposed to make me feel better about the hundreds of thousands of people who have died in Iraq?” he asked. “I appreciate the gesture by the artist to try to preserve this element of my country’s ancient culture, but it gives me no solace.”
However, Joe Wills viewed the statue as an optimistic symbol. “It represents the positivity of the human spirit, how the good things we do can outlast our more destructive, negative impulses,” he said.


US warship sails in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

Updated 20 May 2019
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US warship sails in disputed South China Sea amid trade tensions

  • The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship
  • The US destroyer Preble carried out the operation, a military spokesman said

WASHINGTON: The US military said one of its warships sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a move likely to anger Beijing at a time of tense ties between the world’s two biggest economies.
The busy waterway is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which also include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.
China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday. The tough talk capped a week that saw Beijing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs.
The US destroyer Preble carried out the operation, a US military spokesman told Reuters.
“Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Reef in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet.
It was the second such US military operation in the South China Sea in the last month. On Wednesday, the chief of the US Navy said its freedom of navigation movements in the disputed South China Sea drew more attention than they deserved.
The US military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations.
The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.
China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambasts the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.
Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims in the region.
China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.
China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says the United States is responsible for ratcheting up tension in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.
Last month, China’s navy chief said freedom of navigation should not be used to infringe upon the rights of other nations.