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Cultura, strumento di Pace

Culture, performing Peace
Encounters of art and culture between Italy and Iraq

Baghdad, Sulaimaniya, Erbil -  September 2012
Project organized by Minerva In collaboration with


LAW (Legal Aid WorldWide)
IAJ (International Alliance for Justice)



Minerva Soc. Coop. boasts a long experience of promoting culture, knowledge, and Italian artistic and intellectual heritage. For decades it has carried out this work through publishing efforts, through the monthly “Minerva”, which, for that matter, is sent upon subscription to EU and Italian cultural institutions present abroad; by promoting events, the most important of which is the Minerva Prize, an event that awards and puts on the web exemplary well-deserving women, and sometimes men, for their work towards the feminine reality. It is the first Italian prize awarded to women's studies and was instituted in 1983 by its historic foundress, Annamaria Mammoliti, who passed away two years ago, and who is commemorated by the award. Together with the non-profit organization LAW, it promotes activities of international relations through universities, associations, moral entities and movements, both national and international, committed to affirming and safeguarding human, civil, political rights as well as the rights to freedom and peace in every part of the world.
Over the course of 2011, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Minerva Soc. Coop., in collaboration with LAW – within the context of a more general project aimed at promoting the role of women in Iraq's public spaces, promoted by NPSG in partnership with IAJ – carried out two seminars of formation and exchange of knowledge and experiences addressed to the women of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
The first seminar was held in Rome, at Università Roma Tre, on the theme “Women in Iraq – The Juridical Condition of Women and Family Law”; the second seminar was held at Genoa University on the theme “Women in Iraq – Democracy and Freedom: the Role of Women”. Both seminars resulted in the creation of an Italo-Iraqi workgroup involving legislative and juridical experts, humanitarian activists and representatives of civil society, that produced and approved a final report summarizing point-by-point the common goals relevant to the themes addressed in the two seminars. In the same report, the intention was expressed to continue both the interchange of knowledge and juridical-legislative experience on the theme of women,  and collaboration to monitor the goals.
In ensuring the high scientific and cultural content obtained in the two seminars, a fundamental role was held by the IAJ association (International Alliance for Justice), our Iraqi partner also in this project, “Culture, performing Peace.”






The purpose of the Project “Culture, performing Peace” rests on two fundamental convictions:
- that culture is an integral part of a system of universal values, such as Knowledge, Beauty, Thought. As such, culture is not only the heritage of humanity that refers to the Past but also a factor of social, civic, and economic development for the Present and for the Future;
- that the investment in the cultural exchange between Italy and Iraq is the main street to be traveled, no less important than other routes of bilateral cooperation in matters of economics, law, society, politics, aimed at sustaining the construction of democracy in Iraq and peace in the Middle East.
Due to its ancient cultural history, its belonging to the Mediterranean civilization, and its artistic patrimony, Italy is a privileged partner for Iraq, which itself is a cradle of one of the oldest civilizations in the world and rich in an archaeological, historical, literary and musical heritage of extraordinary value.
The investment in cultural exchange between Italy and Iraq is, therefore, an investment in the ethical and civil resources of the two countries and a help for social integration and the active and conscious citizenship on the part of the respective populations.
The Project's aim is to favor the Italo-Iraqi cultural exchange, placing in contact the creative resources and the artistic competencies, and activating a privileged channel of encounter and solicitation for cultural innovation, besides reciprocal historical knowledge, as a contribution to favor the conditions of modernization and democratization in Iraq.
To this end, the Project intends to bring together artists and public personalities who are an expression of the Italian culture in its various forms – music, dance, theater, cinema, the figurative arts, poetry, literature, information –, taking up cultural exchange as the greatest factor of human and social development, in the city and territory of Iraq.
The inspirational motif of the Project is found, therefore, in the close and universally recognized connection between the quality of the cultural offering and the quality of life, and on the consequent solicitation of public policies to support and promote culture as an instrument of peace.
Moreover, it is known to all how art and culture have always been one of Iraq's deepest characteristics and how they have been decisive in the affirmation of a national spirit. Located in a territory situated at the crossroads of the Mediterranean basin and the Far East, it has witnessed the development of the oldest civilizations know to man. One breathes, in Iraqi culture, the traditions of the Sumerian, Babylonian, Greek and Persian civilizations. To these traditions, after the VIII century, the Arab civilization was added, which in the Abadite period made Baghdad the fulcrum of the elaboration of its culture. Baghdad was, in fact, the cultural capital of the Arab world for centuries. The regime and successive war changed everything, and only now is the Iraqi artistic panorama beginning to flourish anew, in the awareness that the state of its art is directly linked to the spirit of the nation.
In its various manifestations, Iraqi culture offers interesting and important expressions. To offer just one example, in the field of literature, one may speak of an Iraqi national literature, roughly speaking, only beginning with the epoch of the dismantling of the Ottoman empire.  But The modernisation of poetry started long before the rest of the Arab world with Badir Shakir Al Sayab, Nazik Al Malaika among the Iraqi Arabs and Goran and Sheikh Nouri Sheikh Salih among the Kurds. Bilind Haidari, Abdul Wahab Al Bayati, Muzafar Nawab, Muheddin Zangana, Polus,Bekas,Pashew, Shakely,etc. Are just few stars in the sky of Iraqi literature.Nevertheless, critics claim that the dawn of a national literature dates back to the first decades of the XIX century. This occurred above all in poetry, with noteworthy authors such as Sālih al-Tamimi (d. 1845), ‘Abd al-Bāqī al-‘Umarī (1790-1862), ‘Abd al-Ghaffār al-Akhras (1805-1875), Haydar al-Hillī (1831-1887) and Ibrāhīm al-Tabātabā’ī (1832-1901). All these poets spoke of freedom, of engagement against corruption, of social problems and of respect for the fundamental rights of the person. After the First World War, there was a re-flourishing of literary studies, with the diffusion of journalism and the publication of books. In particular, during the 1930s and 40s, some poets, including the aforementioned al-Rusāfī and al-Zahāwī, and others, such as Muhammad Mahdī al-Jawāhirī, represented the avant-garde of the Arab literary world. Towards 1940 in the Arab world, a poetic movement began that was influenced by European authors such as T.S. Eliot and Majakovskij, and by the various avant-garde trends, interlaced with themes taken from the mythological world of ancient Mesopotamia and that of classical Christian and Arab mythologies. In the field of music, too, Iraq has had important experiences. Iraq or Mesopotamia is known for being the first to use the Harper (Qithara) during the Summerian period. Also, Iraq is a multiple cultural society with rich and diverse cultural traditions of Arabs, Kurds, AssyrianoChaldeans, Jews, Turkmen, Sabia Mandaeans, Armenians, Yezidis, Shabaks and Gypsies. The Maqam tradition in Iraq is an extraordinary one in the region and still very vivid.The country is musically known above all for an instrument called ud (lute) and for the rebab (a stringed instrument vaguely resembling the violin). Its most noted musicians who utilize these instruments are, respectively, Ahmend Mukhtar and the Assyrian, Munir Bashir. Other two very important figures in the field of music who lived in Mesopotamia Zeryab and Issac Al mowsili . Zeryab is a great Kurdish musician that during the Abasside Caliphe of Haroun Al Rashid (the story of One Thousand and One Night was under his reign) opened the first music conservatory in Europe in Cordoa, Spain while he was living in Andalusia. In regard to modern pop music, until the fall of Saddam Hussein, the most popular radio station was the Voice of the Youth. It transmitted a mix of western rock, hip hop and pop music, all imported through Jordan because of the international economic sanctions. Iraq nevertheless has produced important pop stars, some of whom were forced to leave the country during Saddam Hussein's rule, due to their songs' content. In the realm of dance, too, one ought to recall the richness of the popular dances, particularly the dabka, a popular masculine folkloric dance that is widespread in Iraq and the other countries of the Middle East, such as Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. The name derives from the Arab verb yadbuk, which means, to stomp one's feet on the ground. The dance represents love for the earth and for one's own country, and above all, for the union between persons; it expresses sentiments of joy and is practiced on joyful occasions, above all during weddings, but also at births and harvest days. For what concerns the plastic arts, few countries in the world are as rich in archaeology as Iraq. The Iraq Museum, with well-organized and attentively classified collection of archaeological pieces, has been the mirror for this rich patrimony. A testament to the many peoples and cultures that flourished in Mesopotamia from time immemorial until the centuries of Arab domination. The offers a vivid witness to the prehistoric ruins, findings from civilizations and art from the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Seleucids, Parthians, Sassanids, and Abadites. The showrooms are organized chronologically. For the benefit of scholars, the musem offers a rich library in several languages, which contributes to the Iraq Museum's reputation of being among the best in the world for studying Mesopotamia. The collection of the Iraq Museum was born through progressive growth, beginning in the 1920s. To this period are dated the first laws aimed at impeding the export of archaeological discoveries from excavations in Iraq: these findings were no longer shipped wholesale to European and American museums, but remained in their country of origin. In 1923, King Feisal I founded the museum, assigning it a provisional location in the ancient Sultan's palace. Three years later, Gertrude Bell, honorary director of antiquities, obtained the transfer of the first nucleus of the collection to a larger home in Ma'mun Street, but with time, this location proved too small for the museum's needs and in 1957 there began the construction of the Iraq Museum, which was inaugurated in 1967. It is well known how the looting of 2003 was a critical moment for safeguarding the artistic and cultural richness of the whole country. From the ruins of the end of the regime and war, Iraq is reaffirming its desire, and at the same time, the necessity, to reawaken the artistic spirit and the infinite cultural capacities of which this country has given witness in the past. Iraq is going through a transformation from 35 years of a totalitarian culture to a democratic culture facing multiple challenges and suffered set backs from decades of dictatorship, wars, sanctions, terrorism, etc. Iraqi culture, artists and intellectuals needs your support and to mingle with the international culture and international artists after several decades of isolation and exclusion. Therefor, this project assists in building bridges between Iraqi and International artists is a great opportunity to break this isolation and to create a space for cultural exchange with western culture through Italy and create opportunity for further cooperation and cultural and human Dialogue







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