NGO connects young Iraqis to international art scene

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When war descends, art is often one of its first casualties. As gallery spaces close down and funding dries up, artists often have little choice but to leave and hope to find work elsewhere, or to forgo their entrepreneurial aspirations and continue working without the hope of pay.

In Iraq, local artists have struggled recently to find spaces to show their art. Yet, as BarakaBits, the portal for  ‘good news from the Middle East,’ reported yesterday, one initiative is changing that. Sada, a Baghdad-based non-profit, is now working to provide opportunities for Iraqi artists to hone their skills and exhibit their art, both in Iraq and internationally.

Some of these artists, like 19 year-old Sejjad Abbas, have already taken to the streets to get their message out, instead of waiting for galleries to support their work. As BarakaBits describes, Abbas painted a giant eye on the side of a building with the words ‘I can see you,’ in an attempt to draw attention to the rampant corruption in Iraq, both during and since the U.S. occupation. Others, who faced persecution at home, like painter Bassim al-Shaker, can now hone their art during residencies abroad.

The organization has brought Iraqi talent to Beirut, to participate in the 2013 Ashkal Alwan Home Works Forum, and to Amman, for residency at Darat al-Funun, Jordan’s all-purpose exhibition space and arts library. And by offering a series of online art courses for young Iraqis taught by internationally-renowned artists, Sada also allows young Iraqis the opportunity to learn from people for whom travel to Iraq would be dangerous.

For these artists, Sada may offer one of the few routes available for developing the creative tools to express themselves, and one day, make a living.

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