FAU Libraries Acquire Art Project Created to Commemorate Victims of 2007 Baghdad Street Bombing
Digitization puts “Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” Collection on Internet
BOCA RATON, FL (June 3, 2008) – Florida Atlantic University Libraries are exhibiting one of 10 projects created by an international coalition of artists to commemorate the March 2007 bombing victims of Mutanabbi Street, the heart and soul of Baghdad’s literary and intellectual community. FAU Libraries have also digitized the collection for Internet access.
In response to the bombing, the Mutanabbi Street Coalition created a 43-piece collection of hand-printed broadsides to protest not only the tragedy of the 30 deaths and 100 injuries, but also the idea of a targeted attack on a street that has always been a place for exchanging ideas.
The Arthur and Mata Jaffe Center for Book Arts at FAU Libraries acquired a set of the broadsides from the California-based coalition and is showcasing the art in an exhibition, "Mutanabbi Street Starts Here," through Monday, July 28, at the S.E. Wimberly Library, 777 Glades Road, on FAU’s Boca Raton campus. The broadsides will become part of the Jaffe center’s permanent collection after the exhibition.
“Each broadside is truly a work of art. All are printed letterpress, usually from handset metal or wood type. Some feature original relief prints, some are printed on handmade paper; all are made with the passion of artists who have something to say,” said John Cutrone, the Jaffe center’s programs coordinator, who worked with Seth Thompson, the Jaffe center’s collections specialist, to create one of the 43 broadsides.
Broadsides are single sheet printings which were widely used for royal proclamations and official notices in the 15th century after the development of printing. Today, they are more likely to have a literary and artistic association.
San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil, who heads the Mutanabbi Street Coalition, envisions the collection growing from 43 to 130 broadsides, a number that represents the approximate number of dead and wounded in the attack. During the library’s exhibition, participants in a letterpress workshop at the Jaffe center will produce broadsides to add to the coalition’s project.
Cutrone and Thompson, both letterpress printers, collaborated with an Iraqi poet for inspiration to create their broadside, “Occident to Orient,” now one of the 43 in the collection.
“We wanted to focus on the beauty of the words by poet Zaid Shlah. And there were many beautiful words, both in Arabic and in English,” said Cutrone. “There was a conscious attempt to avoid Western ideas of Arabic imagery. We chose to illustrate our broadside with a very old printer's device of a bird among poppies. That was a very personal decision, as it seemed to us that almost every radio dispatch from Baghdad we heard had birdsong in the background.”
As part of its contribution, the FAU Libraries have digitized the 43 broadsides, making them accessible through the library’s Web site, www.library.fau.edu/depts/digital_library/mutanabbi_index.htm.
“We are privileged to be one of the cultural institutions able to display this collection, and we were glad to contribute our expertise by digitizing it also, so that anyone can view it online,” said Dr. William Miller, dean of FAU Libraries.
The coalition, made up of poets, writers, artists, booksellers and letterpress printers, initially just wanted to organize a reading in San Francisco to commemorate the bombing victims. However, as artists networked, the project took on a broader meaning, and then, a life of its own.
“Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” may be viewed during regular library hours listed at www.library.fau.edu/geninfo/hours.htm?boca or 561-297-3770. The portion of the exhibition inside the Jaffe center can be viewed Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Arts,” a travelling exhibition of books handmade by Iraqi artists, will follow “Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” from Tuesday, August 12, through Tuesday, November 25, at the library.
For more information on the exhibition, the letterpress workshop or the Mutanabbi Street Coalition, contact John Cutrone, the programs coordinator for the Arthur and Mata Jaffe Center for Book Arts, at 561-297-0455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.