How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch
A fragment of inscribed stone, weighing around 25 kg, before conservation measures. (Smithsonian Institution)
Short Url
Updated 15 May 2021

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch
  • Six years after its precious antiquities were wrecked by the terror group, the museum is slowly re-emerging from the rubble 
  • Remote training from the Musee du Louvre and Smithsonian Institution has allowed restoration work to continue despite the pandemic

DUBAI: On Feb. 26, 2015, disturbing footage emerged from northwestern Iraq showing Daesh militants smashing pre-Islamic artefacts and burning ancient manuscripts at the Mosul Cultural Museum.

The terrorist group had seized control of the multi-ethnic city the previous year, and had set about looting everything of value and destroying anything that failed to conform to its warped ideology.

Priceless objects, spread across the museum’s three central halls, had told the singular narrative of Iraq as a land of remarkable civilizations — from the Sumerians and the Akkadians to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.




A member of the Iraqi forces holds a damaged artifact in the museum on March 13, 2017. (AFP) 

And yet it took only moments, as the camera rolled, for Daesh to physically erase the evidence of thousands of years of human history. The images, reminiscent of the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas, sent a wave of revulsion around the world.

At some heritage sites in Mosul, including the ancient city of Nimrud, up to 80 percent of the excavated and restored monuments had been destroyed, according to experts from the British Museum.

Almost two years after the pillaging, on July 21, 2017, Mosul was finally liberated by the Iraqi army, ushering in a period of painstaking reconstruction work to restore the city’s monuments, churches, mosques and archaeological treasures.




Iraqi forces battle Daesh outside Mosul Cultural Museum on March 11, 2017. (AFP)

An international partnership of institutions was established in 2018 to repair the museum’s damaged civil structure and collections ransacked by Daesh. Its members include the Geneva-based Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), the Musee du Louvre, the Smithsonian Institution and the World Monuments Fund (WMF).

These organizations work closely with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) and the museum’s director, Zaid Ghazi Saadullah.

The collaboration began when SBAH contacted ALIPH — an organization founded in 2017 to safeguard endangered heritage sites — to secure much-needed funding for the restoration.




Rosalie Gonzalez is a a project manager for the alliance. (Supplied)

“Iraq was one of the reasons ALIPH was created,” Rosalie Gonzalez, a project manager for the alliance, told Arab News. “It was one of the priority countries from the beginning. The Mosul Cultural Museum was the first project the foundation funded in Iraq.

“Through our calls for projects and our emergency relief mechanism, we funded 28 projects in Iraq for more than $9 million. Within three years, it’s a lot of progress and we’re very happy to have this extended portfolio in Iraq.”

Museum professionals who offered expertise and support were brought in to assess the extent of the damage.




Saad Ahmed, the Mosul Cultural Museum’s head of conservation (left), and Zaid Ghazi Saadullah, the museum’s director, examine a wood cenotaph in the Mosul Cultural Museum’s Islamic Hall in February 2019. (Supplied)

Nothing had been spared. The museum itself, founded in 1952, had been badly damaged, its windows and doors shattered, its roof torn open, and shell casings and unexploded ordnance left scattered throughout its grounds.

The museum’s once monumental winged bulls, known as Lamassus, had been reduced to gravel, while its figurative sculptures lay dismembered where they had fallen.

A rich collection of embellished friezes and Assyrian paintings had been looted and 25,000 manuscripts burned to ashes.




The remains of one of Mosul Cultural Museum’s lamassu statues. (AFP)

Perhaps the most harrowing sight of all was the gaping hole left in the floor of the Assyrian Hall, where a throne-like platform had stood before it was blown to pieces. One expert who visited the site likened it to a crime scene.

“I think the whole museum community felt like this really was a terrible crime against culture and history, and we had to do something about it,” Richard Kurin, ambassador-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution, told Arab News.

Ariane Thomas, a Mesopotamian art specialist and head of the Oriental antiquities department at Musee du Louvre, echoed his sentiments.




Ariane Thomas is the director of Oriental antiquities department at Musee du Louvre. (Musée du Louvre)

“It’s a complete loss,” she told Arab News from Paris. “It was a bit like losing someone I knew. I was also struck by the fact that so many people were deeply moved even though sometimes they didn’t know much about those objects.”

This shocking act of vandalism was not merely the product of Daesh’s ideology of “separating people from their history,” but was driven in large part by the pursuit of profit, Kurin said. After all, the militants looted several highly valuable items.

“There was an economic (logic) to this,” he said. “They were blowing up what they couldn’t carry and then removing what they could so that they could presumably sell it in exchange for armaments, bullets and explosives.




The Mosul Cultural Museum was the first project the foundation funded in Iraq. (Supplied)

“We know that Daesh engaged in a whole system of doing that. They gave permits to people to loot archaeological sites.”

A dedicated team of Iraqi experts, trained by professionals from the Louvre and Smithsonian, has set about sorting through the debris to salvage and conserve what was left behind.

What they find is carefully documented, catalogued and placed in a local storage facility that today functions as a fully equipped conservation laboratory, used by specialists for all recovery activities.




Richard Kurin is the  ambassador-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution. (Smithsonian Institution)

The painstaking process of piecing objects back together has been carried out with the help of specialized equipment and computers supplied by the Louvre.

“What we did was treat the museum like it was an archaeological site,” said Kurin. “Rather than throwing all the rubble away, we collected it, labeled it and kept it systematic so that you could find the pieces of what was originally a whole.”

Progress was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions, but restoration advice and assistance continued remotely.




Iraqi forces battle Daesh outside Mosul Cultural Museum on March 11, 2017. (AFP)

“We decided that there was no reason to stop. And, morally, we couldn’t do so,” said Thomas. “So we built, from A to Z, a training program online on various subjects to better prepare the museum’s rehabilitation.

“We are still producing new videos. So far, we have 30 to 50 videos that are all in French and Arabic. We somehow invented a new way to move forward on the restoration despite the distance due to the health crisis.”

As for the integrity of the building itself, a team from the WMF has assessed the building and its surroundings and prepared a plan "including all necessary investigations and the development of concept, design, and construction drawings," its media office said.




The museum was founded in 1952. (Supplied)

Experts hope to reopen the museum within three to four years.

The revival of the Mosul Cultural Museum is significant on many levels: It emphasizes camaraderie in times of crisis; the city’s true multi-faith identity; and, above all, the refusal to allow Daesh’s “year-zero” ideology to prevail.

“Increasingly, museums have realized that they have a responsibility beyond their walls,” said Kurin.

As for Mosul, the museum’s emergence from the rubble offers cause for optimism. “By rebuilding the museum and the collections, the Iraqi team along with the international partners are sending a message of hope,” said Gonzalez.

“We will bring this museum back to life, and by doing so we will protect our past and build a better future.”


Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 
Updated 15 June 2021

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

DUBAI: Moroccan-helmed label Casablanca is among six other fashion houses set to present a physical show during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode – which organizes Paris Fashion Weeks – announced on Monday.

After two seasons of digital presentations, the hybrid event will return with a selected number of brands showcasing their Spring 2022 collections in person and others presenting digitally from June 22-27.

Casablanca was founded by Charaf Tajer. The menswear, Paris-based label is known for its ultra-wearable clothing made out of luxe silks and cashmeres that is inspired by Tajer’s Moroccan roots. 

His debut runway during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in 2018 was a love letter to his parents who met while working side by side in a clothing atelier in the fashion district of Casablanca.

Besides Casablanca, Dior, Hermès, Bluemarable, LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi and Officine Générale are also listed to present physical shows. 

Digital presentations will feature runways for Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Dunhill, and more. 

Just last week, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced that Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad will present his Autumn/ Winter 2021 couture collection in person at Paris Fashion Week, among seven other renowned labels including Dior, Azzaro Couture, Chanel, Giorgio Armani Privé, Balenciaga, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vaishali S. 

A limited number of guests will be allowed to attend the physical shows to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury
Updated 15 June 2021

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

DUBAI: The Cannes Film Festival announced this week that Algerian director Mounia Meddour will be part of the Un Certain Regard jury at the 74th edition of the event set to take place from July 6-17.

The other jury members are UK director Andrea Arnold – the president, French actress Elsa Zylberstein, Argentinian director, producer and screenwriter Daniel Burman and US writer, director, producer and actor Michael Covino.

After making several documentaries — “Elementary Particles” (2007), “La Cuisine en héritage” (2009) and “Algerian Cinema: A New Breath” — Meddour directed her first short fiction film “Edwige” in 2011, which received a special mention at the Journées Cinématographiques in Algiers. 

In 2019, she created a sensation with her first feature film “Papicha.” 


Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’
The model recently sat down with i-D magazine. Instagram
Updated 15 June 2021

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

DUBAI: Part-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid recently opened up about a host of personal topics in an interview with i-D magazine, shedding light on her experience of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, feeling “weird” during her pregnancy during fashion month, her multi-cultural roots and how she intends to help her daughter embrace her different heritages, something, she reveals,  she  previously faced difficulty standing up for when it comes to her Arab roots.

Hadid and Zayn Malik, father of her nine-month-old daughter Khai, are both from mixed race households.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The 26-year-old model was born to Dutch supermodel and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid and Palestinian property mogul Mohamed Hadid. Meanwhile, the former One Direction singer’s father is British-Pakistani, while his mother is English and Irish.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The parents of Khai revealed that their multicultural roots are something they talk about a lot as partners as it’s “something that we first experienced ourselves because both of our parents are their own heritage.”

Hadid went on to note that she sometimes felt that she was “too white” to stand up for her Arab heritage.

“In certain situations, I feel — or I’m made to feel — that I’m too white to stand up for part of my Arab heritage. You go through life trying to figure out where you fit in racially. Is what I am, or what I have, enough to do what I feel is right? But then, also, is that taking advantage of the privilege of having the whiteness within me, right? Am I allowed to speak for this side of me, or is that speaking on something that I don’t experience enough to know? Do you know what I’m saying?” she said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)


She added that she thinks it will “be nice" to have such conversations with Khai someday, "and see where she comes from… without us putting that onto her.

"What comes from her is what I'm most excited about," she added, "and being able to add to that or answer her questions."

 


London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida
Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied
Updated 14 June 2021

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

DUBAI: London Fashion Week is hoping to be back on track with the usual line-up of physical shows come September, but until then LFW’s “digital first” approach continued with another selection of online presentations from the capital’s designers alongside a handful of in-person events that took place from June 12-14. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Reem Juan (@reemjuan)

Held over three days, the latest edition saw 32 womenswear, menswear and accessories brands showcasing their collections on the LFW digital platform, including regional label Reem Juan. 

The Abu Dhabi-born womenswear designer presented her eponymous brand’s Fall 2021 collection via a four-minute fashion film as part of the fashion event. 

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Inspired by the late Egyptian-born French icon Dalida, Juan decided to embrace femininity by churning out an ultra-romantic collection that included sparkling miniskirts embellished with tiny beads and worn with jumpers embroidered with famous Dalida lyrics such as “En chantant jusqu'au bout” and “C'était le temps des fleurs on ignorait la peur.”

Flower motifs appeared throughout, whether in the form of beaded appliques on tops or as prints on chiffon dresses and jacquard pant suits and skirts.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Black turtlenecks got an ultra-feminine touch by way of lace collars while sharply-tailored blazers looked all the more elegant when paired with pussy bow blouses.

1970’s influence seeped into the offering in the form of thick belts cinched around the waist and denim wide-legged jumpsuits.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

If you’re in the market for a pretty frock, Juan’s latest collection provides plenty to choose from. The offering concluded with a lineup of elegant eveningwear that consisted of heavily-sequined, plunging gowns, tulle dresses with voluminous sleeves, beaded taffeta skirts worn with a matching bralet tops and embellished crepe kaftans in salmon, peach, lemon and mint hues.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

By using technology, minimal production waste and sourcing local hand craftsmanship to create her garments, Juan’s collection is as chic as it is sustainable. For instance, the designer utilized recycled taffeta to create one eye-catching yellow shirt dress with open eyelet details.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Indeed, the designer’s efforts will resonate with the luxury consumer who values ethical clothing.


Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash
Flowers and tributes hanging on the fence of the Botanic Gardens on March 17, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Getty Images
Updated 14 June 2021

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

DUBAI: A producer for a controversial Hollywood film about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch terror attacks in 2019 has resigned from the project.

 The producer Philippa Campbell’s resignation comes after the Andrew Niccol-directed  film, titled “They Are Us,”  came under fire for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.

“I’ve listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views. I now agree that the events of March 15, 2019, are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress,” she said in a statement released to the media.

“The announcement was focused on film business, and did not take enough account of the political and human context of the story in this country. It’s the complexity of that context I’ve been reflecting on that has led me to this decision,” she added.

Ardern, who is slated to be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne, said on Sunday it felt “very soon and very raw” for New Zealand, and that she was not an appropriate focus for a film about the mosque attacks. 

“There are plenty of stories from March 15 that could be told, but I don’t consider mine to be one of them,” she said. Ardern has stated that she has no involvement with the film, which would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.