Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

Iraq is mourning the loss of a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild her country’s leading museum in the aftermath of the US invasion in 2003. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2019
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Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

  • Al-Gailani was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage
  • After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Monday mourned the loss of Lamia Al-Gailani, a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild the Baghdad museum after it was looted following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Al-Gailani, who died in Amman, Jordan, on Friday at the age of 80, was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage.
Relatives, colleagues, and cultural officials on Monday gathered at Baghdad’s National Museum, the country’s leading museum, to pay their respects before moving her remains to the Qadiriyyah mosque for prayers and later interment.
A devotee of her country’s heritage, Al-Gailani lent her expertise to restore relics stolen from the museum for its reopening in 2015. She also championed a new antiquities museum for the city of Basra, which opened in 2016.
“She was very keen to communicate on the popular level and make archaeology accessible to ordinary people,” said her daughter, Noorah Al-Gailani, who curates the Islamic civilizations collection at the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.
“It is a big loss, the passing of Dr. Lamia Al-Gailaini, who played a great role in the field of archaeology, even before 2003,” said the deputy minister of culture, Qais Hussein Rashid.
The restored collection at the National Museum included hundreds of cylinder seals, the subject of Al-Gailani’s 1977 dissertation at the University of London. These were engraved surfaces used to print cuneiform impressions and pictographic lore onto documents and surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq.
Still, thousands of artefacts remain missing from the museum’s collection, and Al-Gailani bore the grief of watching her country’s rich heritage suffer unfathomable levels of looting and destruction in the years after Saddam’s ouster.
“I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up,” she told the BBC in 2015, when Daesh militants bulldozed relics at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud near present-day Mosul.
Born in Baghdad in 1938, Al-Gailani studied at the University of Cambridge in Britain before finding work as a curator at the National Museum in 1960. It was her first job in archaeology, her daughter said.
She returned to Britain in 1970 to pursue advanced studies, and she made her home there. Still, she kept returning to her native country, connecting foreign academics with an Iraqi archaeological community that was struggling under the isolation of Saddam Hussein’s autocratic rule and the UN sanctions against him.
In 1999, she published “The First Arabs,” in Arabic, with the Iraqi archaeologist Salim Al-Alusi, on the earliest traces of Arab culture in Mesopotamia, in the 6th through 9th centuries.
She would bring copies of the book with her to Baghdad and sell them through a vendor on Mutanabbi Street, the literary heart of the capital, according to her daughter.
After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war.
At the time of her death, she was working with the Basra Museum to curate a new exhibit set to open in March, said Qahtan Al-Abeed, the museum director.
“She hand-picked the cylinder seals to display at the museum,” said Al-Abeed.


Startup of the Week: Creatively promoting anime culture in Saudi Arabia

Updated 19 February 2019
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Startup of the Week: Creatively promoting anime culture in Saudi Arabia

  • 40 percent of Saudi youths are fans of Japanese anime, according to Ahmad Hawssah, founder and project manager of Kio Market

Most people in Saudi Arabia have watched Japanese anime on TV during their childhood. Japanese anime series dubbed in Arabic used to be widely aired on Arabic channels for children. Those series became an important part in the lives of young Saudis especially millennials.
With the increasing growth of the internet in Saudi Arabia in the 2000s, Saudis began to learn more about the anime culture, Japanese culture, and language. The created their own communities for anime fans, translated and spread the culture in society mainly relying on illegal streaming sites.
40 percent of Saudi youths are fans of Japanese anime, according to Ahmad Hawssah, founder and project manager of Kio Market.
An average Saudi individual has definitely watched dozens of Japanese anime during childhood. The most popular series include Detective Conan, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Hunter X Hunter and Captain Tsubasa, etc.
Ahmad with his otaku friends, (a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests in anime) founded Koi Market because they were frustrated with the poor presentation of anime culture in Saudi Arabia.
Hawssah said that he and his friends attended an event that showcased anime culture in 2013. “That experience was very disappointing to us and we decided that we should do something about it,” he added.
Koi Market (@koi_market), which stands for “Kingdom of Imagination” was established in 2015. It is an anime online store based in Jeddah that sells anime-themed accessories and gifts online such as posters, mugs, T-shirts, stickers, notes and pins.
“There are many things that distinguish us from other Saudi businesses focusing on anime,” Hawssah said.
“Ninety percent of our products are made by Saudis in Saudi Arabia, we make everything by ourselves. We collaborate with local artists with real talent to draw for us,” he added.
“We found that what’s available in the local market by other competitors is very expensive and is not worth the price. Most of those businesses import goods from Japan and sell it at high prices, we wanted to fix that problem.”
“Our business is about investing in local talents, and offering products with very good quality and at reasonable prices, because we believe anime is for everyone; we do not want anyone to wish to own something that he or she likes but feel they cannot afford,” Hawssah said.
The other 10 percent of Koi market products are imported stuff from Japan such as the 3D anime models and cosplay outfits.
Hawssah with his team of five aspires to have a strong presence in the industry to sell original Japanese products, and to introduce new Arab characters to the market.
“There are so many Saudi and Arab animators and artists in the region, we want to support and market their work with our products,” he said.
Hawssah believes that the Middle East is very rich in history and culture that can be a real substance for great projects.
“We can produce amazing things by creating characters that highlight our Arab identity and culture; it will be interesting for the whole world.”
He said it is obvious that most people around the world have a good idea of American, Japanese, and Chinese cultures, but their assumptions about the Arab region and culture are flawed.
He wants to change the situation and believes the youth can play an effective role in this regard by using their creativity to highlight the true culture and identity of the region.
Koi Market products can be found on (https://salla.sa/koi_market), they ship to anywhere in Saudi Arabia. They can also be followed on Instagram (@anime_legion7).