November 14, 2006

 

Rumsfeld & the Lion of Babylon

"Moayyed Mohsen likes to paint great figures from Iraq's past like the mythical hero Gilgamesh. But this year he turned his talents to another larger-than-life subject in his country's history -- Donald Rumsfeld. Dominating the wall of a Baghdad art gallery in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah is a massive mural that is no tribute to the outgoing US defense secretary. Rumsfeld is depicted leaning back reading papers, with combat-boot-clad feet propped up on a ruined building. Beside him is a weathered image of the Lion of Babylon -- potent symbol of Iraq's illustrious past -- atop a ruined plinth. The US official is surrounded by whirling bits of paper that morph into birds and fly off into the distance. The artist's image is striking and it was conceived in anger -- not just over the occupation of Iraq but also over what Mohsen sees as the humiliation of a nation that once taught mankind how to write."



"His resignation on November 8 -- the first casualty of the Republican defeat in mid-term congressional elections last week -- met with almost universal acclaim across Iraq's divided communities, who seem to agree on little else than the situation in their war-ravaged country is getting worse by the day. Many Iraqis feel the US defense secretary's handling of the war showed arrogance and disdain for their country -- tellingly symbolized by his famous quip that 'stuff happens' when asked to comment on the looting of Baghdad, including its museum, in the invasion's aftermath." "In the Middle East, showing the soles of one's feet is considered very poor manners, so the Rumsfeld in the painting automatically offends the viewer. The Lion of Babel atop a ruined perch sends another message. 'I decided to make the base of the statue a bookcase containing volumes on the arts, literature and knowledge left by Iraqis,' he said. 'Then I destroyed the base to symbolize the repeated wars and showed the papers flying through the air and changing into white birds showing love and peace to the world.' By juxtaposing his subject with ancient monuments, Mohsen sought to pit the endurance of history against the fleeting nature of man ..."

Reference
• A. Abboud, "Iraqi artist paints Rumsfeld gloating over ruins of Iraq," in Yahoo! News, online, November 14, 2006



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