Iraqi Artisans Still Dedicated to Tradition - 11.26.2007

Video - Baghdad, Iraq - Iraq is famous for many things, including woodcrafts. Woodcarving in particular is something well-known in Iraq. Iraqi families such as those of Abu Mustafa Al-Rubaie have been handing their skills down from generation to generation. Iraqi artists are one of many groups who have been the target of violence, such as bakers, academics, and those seen to be connected with the Multi-National Coalition forces.

The development of the craft has become rare as well-known artists and professionals of all variety with the means have fled the country. Today there is just one institute still teaching the skills of these Iraqi artisans. The Fine Arts Academy in Baghdad, where many artists have displayed work and taught, continues to provide lessons in woodcarving. Many artists are learning and developing their craft alone, displaying their work primarily in some of the remaining galleries of the Karrada neighborhood.

This artform is displayed by Iraqis and Muslims all over, some for purely decoration, but many others for religious purposes. There are woodcarvings and paintings that display images of Imam Ali, the Ka’aba in Mecca, and various sayings from the Qur’an, among others.

Abu Mustafa is most proud of his work creating images and paintings with the ay’at or verses of the Qur’an. He also takes pride in keeping true to the traditional methods of the original creators of these works, and makes each by hand. Other artists have begun using machines that enable the reproduction of facsimiles with a minimum of effort on the part of the artist, after the original is finished.

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