The media, especially the independent media, is flooded with Iraq war coverage – some things true, a lot of things not. There is no denying that this war, as is the case with all wars, is taking a drastic toll on human lives. There is something we have all seem to forgotten, however – the toll this war has taken on culture, specifically art.

I had not much considered this unfortunate casualty myself until I stumbled upon this NPR article, entitled “Many Iraqi Artists Struggle, Suffer in Silence.” While Iraq was once a beacon of art in the Arab world, three decades of crippling invasions and sectarian fighting has pushed much of the art and artists into exile. While some remain, few artists feel comfortable reflecting the violence and suffering that surrounds them.

One point that struck me in particular read:

Under Saddam, artists knew that as long as they stayed on message — building monuments to the regime or making paintings that showed the dictator as a benevolent folk hero — they wouldn’t be punished.

Us media people always talk about the suppression of the first amendment. It is interesting to see how all forms of art are severely suppressed all over the world.

Another point addressed what the art depicts now – images like abstract water buffalo and benign portraits of citizens. The images are warless. This is done on purpose by many, one artist says, as a way to forget what is around them every day. Also, depicting such violence would be seen as an attempt to be critical of the government, which is severely frowned upon. As Mahir Mohammad, ceramicist and art professor says, “They want us to say the government is good, and the Americans [are] good, the policy now is good.”

I’m not sure what else this war can take from the world, but it would be a tragedy to watch such artistry diminish any further than it already has.

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