Events offer chance to learn about Iraqi art and culture
Daily Hampshire Gazette

To the editor:

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, in collaboration with the Media Education Foundation, The Northampton Center for the Arts and The Iraqi Children's Art Exchange will commemorate the 2003 destruction and looting of the Baghdad Art Museum, with a series of events beginning this Friday. They include a film, exhibits and a talk by UMass anthropology doctoral candidate Jill Bierly on the Mead's ancient Assyrian reliefs (brought to the college in the 1850s), the momumentality of Assyrian art and how this cultural heritage influences contemporary Iraqis and their art.

It seems only fitting that the Pioneer Valley, rich with art and artists, with activists, academics and academic institutions should join with people around the world in focusing on the historical, emotional, psychological and intellectual impact of destroying, or failing to protect, so much history, culture and art.

Ask people what country Babylon is located in, or the "Cradle of Civilization" and see how many answer Iraq.

"People don't understand that Iraq is more important than Egypt in world heritag," according to McGuire Bigson from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. It is in Mesopotamia, between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, that writing, mathematics, legal systems, literature, astronomy and the cultivation of grain (among other things) began.

It is estimated that more than 15,000 items were stolen when the museum, left unprotected and vulnerable, was looted during the US invasion in 2003. The local events are meant to publicize the losses of 2003, and help stem the ongoing looting and illegal sale of the antiquities. The events also provide an opportunity to learn more about Iraq and Iraqi culture, history and art and to understand their losses more fully.

Please join us at the Northampton Center for the Arts this Friday, 5-8 p.m. to create a community banner to send to the Baghdad Art Museum and at the Mead at Amherst College on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. for a talk, tour and candlelight vigil. Events are free and open to the public.

Claudia Lefko