The Art and Soul of Mosul: online exhibition looks beyond the devastation

Google Arts & Culture, a non-profit initiative, is highlighting Mosul at the moment, in collaboration with Al-Ghad Radio, Iraq. The project went live on January 28, 2021 as TRT World explained.

Google Arts & Culture, the online arts programme, “work[s] with cultural institutions and artists around the world. [Its] mission is to preserve and bring the world’s art and culture online so it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere.” 

This time, it is bringing art lovers “stories of resilience, revival, and recovery through culture” from Iraq. The Art and Soul of Mosul project “helps preserve Maslawi heritage, including iconic landmarks that faced destruction such as the Noori Complex and the Lion of Mosul,” press materials say. 

Google says the city of Mosul’s unique history “extends over 4000 years into the past and witnessed the rise of civilizations but also suffered through devestations including the most recent [Daesh, also known as ISIS] occupation ending in 2017.” 

Al Ghad Radio, “a leading community organisation that has pioneered the revival and reconstruction of Mosul,” was instrumental in reconnecting people to open the exhibition “Return to Mosul” in January 2019. 

On the second anniversary of “Return to Mosul”, Google presents “The Art and Soul of Mosul”, “Google Arts & Culture’s latest project showcasing and supporting the preservation of contemporary culture and ancient heritage of the Middle East.” 

The online project aims to help worldwide audiences to discover the story of the city, its people, “and especially its artists silenced throughout the dark days of the [Daesh] occupation.” 

What is featured in the Art and Soul of Mosul 

Thanks to Google’s advanced technology initiatives, the exhibition comes to life through immersive videos and audio interviews, curated online exhibitions, Street View and “In-Painting Tours” and unique 3D models. 

For example there is Al Hadba minaret, which was destroyed by Daesh in June 2017, all intact in a VR (virtual reality) presentation. The landmark minaret and the Great Mosque of al Nuri is being planned to be conserved and reconstructed with an alliance between UNESCO, UAE and Iraq. 

Online explorers can also visit Mosul’s streets via Street View, and see for themselves the war ravaged streets slowly coming back to life. The tour shows “important landmarks, some of which are destroyed.” 

“The art exhibition, ‘Return to Mosul’, brought together artistic voices from throughout Iraq and Mosul to tell the story of the occupation and recovery, providing a vision of a brighter, more tolerant future in Mosul,” the Google presentation “The Exhibition That Brought it all Together” says, going back to 2019. 

There are also interviews with Mosul residents who lived through the terror of the Daesh occupation. These personal accounts, grouped under Voices from Mosul, reveal a dark period. 

Hakam Alkattib, a fine artist, says he was very prolific during this time, producing more than 100 paintings of various dimensions. But he was also anxious as he did so: “It is interesting to note that after completing and signing each painting, I started looking for a hideout for it. 

"The idea of hiding them in the sub ceiling of the atelier came, to keep my work away from the eyes of neighbours or [Daesh] members, because the discovery of such things would lead to the amputation of the hand – the hand of the painter – at best.” 

Program Manager, Google Arts & Culture Chance Coughenour, writes “The collection helps people immerse themselves in the world of Mosul’s artists through features like detailed in-painting tours and videos detailing the artist’s experience living through occupation. 

"At the heart of the project is the incredible artwork depicting the stories of the city and the people, including the lives of women and children during and after the war. Some of the artwork was displayed during the 2019 exhibition “Return to Mosul,” hosted at the Mosul Cultural Museum. With this new digital exhibition, the pieces now have a permanent online home.”

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