Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here The al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition Project was formed to bare witness and to commemorate those that were killed or injured in the car bombing on March 5th 2007 in al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. The street is in a mixed Shia-Sunni area, the historical centre of Baghdad booksellers, bookshops and outdoor bookstalls, stationary shops, cafes and tea shops, it’s the heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.

The coalition is headed by Beau Beausoleil, based in San Francisco, who initiated the project and called for a total of 130 Broadsides (the number representing those killed or injured) to be contributed by artists internationally to raise money for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). The Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project now holds the work of printers from: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and France.

Following on from the Broadside project,in July 2010, Beau Beausoleil put out a call for book artists to join ‘An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street’ representing the books destroyed or damaged in the explosion.

It is a response to the violence in Iraq from the international arts community. The coalition asked each Book Artist who joined the project to complete three books (or other paper material) over the course of a year. Books that reflected both the strength and fragility of books, but also showed the endurance of the ideas within them. Work to reflect both the targeted attack on this ‘street of the booksellers’ as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.

The exhibition, and associated book arts events, will run from 6 February to 29 July 2013, at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, UK.

As part of the project Mavina Baker submitted Falling Gently, a concertina book.

‘The project is both a lament and a commemoration of the singular power of words; words said, words not said, words remembered. . . .

The targeted attack on this 'street of the booksellers', such indiscriminate brute force to maim and kill, is ultimately futile.

Books and libraries have been destroyed countless times, since 48 BC with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, through Nazis Germany up to and including al-Mutanabbi Street. But, books will persevere because of the people who make them.

And, as reliable as the turning of the seasons more poets, writers, artists and philosophers will bring their ideas into the light.’ MB

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