Candy, Chicks and Rock&Roll

Iraqi Artists Are Back on the World Stage

Jamal Penjweny grew up with war, having been born in Iraqi Kurdistan in the early 1980s.

The photographs in his series “Saddam Is Here” show the psychological toll that conflict and dictatorship can take, even years after the fact. In his images, Iraqis in their everyday environments hide their faces behind a picture of Saddam Hussein, a nod to the long-gone dictator’s lingering presence in Iraqi society.

The theme of everyday life being lived despite extraordinary circumstances links Penjweny’s series and the works of ten other artists participating in the exhibit"Welcome to Iraq" at the 55th Venice Biennale.

The Biennale is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious international art fairs—88 countries are hosting national pavilions this year. But “Welcome to Iraq” marks the first time in over three decades that artists living and working in Iraq are being represented. (2011 saw an exhibit by Iraqi artists in exile.) The pieces that follow will all be on display through November as part of “Welcome to Iraq” at the Biennale’s Iraq Pavilion.

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