The Slovenia Times

Over My Eyes: Stories of Iraq


An endless collage of online news clippings, magazine covers, and reporting from around the world center on the American invasion of Iraq. Beyond, in the darkly lit exhibition, an American-accented English speaker welcomes visitors to Galerija Jakopič. In the underground museum off Slovenska cesta in Ljubljana, you are greeted by a map of Iraq, Syria, and Iran and text in Arabic, Slovene, and English: "OVER MY EYES: STORIES OF IRAQ."

On the opposite wall is a flickering video-a fire inside a cave where early man scribbled inscriptions on its walls in 50,000 BC. Iraq, formerly a part of Mesopotamia, was the birthplace of Babylon, an anicent kingdom and myth from our imaginations.

"On entering the House of Dust," a small quote near the projection reads a verse from the Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 BC), "everywhere I looked there were royal crowns gathered in heaps, everywhere I listened it was the bearer of crowns who, in the past, had ruled the land."

While Over My Eyes portrays the lives of all Iraqis, it begins with some of the most common issues: displacement and transience of its citizens. Aran Karim's collection of photos titled Smugglers depicts families and individuals on foot and horseback, crossing from Kurdistan into Syria and Iran. They pay guards in beautiful valleys, cross rapid rivers, smoke shisha and sing karaoke-living their best and most authentic lives. In the landscapes, we find commonalities in a foreign land. We are united by the mountains.

The exhibit transitions fluidly into the work of Ali Arkady, who documents the lives of Kurdish opposition fighting ISIS, orphans-one of them the swimming boy in the exhibit's promo photo-and architecture that has been impacted by the war. His work explores the dichotomy between the mundanity and terror of everyday life under the threat of violence. With amusement parks, children playing with cows in a river, and a wedding in Baghdad, Arkady introduces new perspectives on warfare and the idea of happiness as a source of resistance.

Beyond a digital map of displacement that describes the battles of Fallujah then Mosul, the veiled portraits of Yazidi women are entrancing. They demand your attention. In front of the series, Escaped by Seivan M. Salim, museum spectators read stories of women who were raped, kidnapped, tortured, and sold as slaves. It is the most powerful piece both emotionally and aesthetically. 

Continuing the section covering displaced people, a video shows boys forced into working as butchers while a young girl sits on the floor under the TV with a green balloon, looking bored and despondent.

As the exhibition reaches its dead-end, the focus shifts to religious minority Iraqis. There are photos of Christians, Yazidis, and Sunni Kurdish in Nineveh and Sinjar, where ISIS carried out a project of ethnic cleansing. The exhibit closes backwards, with photos hidden from the Suddam Hussein regime and given to Twana Abdullah.

Depicting Kurds before their persecution by Hussein's government, the photos have a vibrant, colorful grain reminiscent of old, good times-before the tyranny, before the Gulf War, and before the American invasion. Next to them are the ancient landscapes, forever supreme, stark in black and white.


Ryan Beitler is a journalist, writer, and blogger who has written for Paste Magazine, The Slovenia Times, Addiction Now, OC Weekly, AI Time Journal, New Noise Magazine, and many more.



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