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Iraq's complex history is focus of lecture series

October 01, 2008

Stirring imagery, metaphorical musings and how Iraq evolved from a progressive country into a violent, war-torn region will be the subject of the second Community Lecture Series at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“Between Two Rivers” is an artistic project hosted by Sama Alshaibi, an assistant professor of photography at the University of Arizona’s School of Art. The project describes the fighting, religious wars, landscape and historical greatness of Iraq, Alshaibi’s native country.

Hosted by ASU’s School of Letters & Sciences and University College, the lecture starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at the University Center, 411 N. Central, Suite 282. The lecture series is free and open to the public. For more information call (602) 496-0638 or visit Parking information can be found at:

Working with a special-effects makeup artist, Alshaibi will alter her face and body to depict the violence, terror and suffering of her people.

“I want to use art as a way of describing and depicting the people of Iraq,” Alshaibi said. “I’ll take on different personas to show what each person is grappling with and how they are reacting to the conflict in their lives.”

Alshaibi said Iraq is the birthplace of writing and math and was a progressive and modern country until it was ravaged by religion, war, politics and exploitation. A large portion of her lecture will focus on how tribal tattoos, scarification and traditional Iraqi identity markers are being used to subvert “vultures” (persons who prey on the dead and deceive family members of suicide bombing victims) in the streets of Baghdad. Vultures often use the deceased to extract ransoms out of families who believe their loved ones have been kidnapped. As a result, many Iraqis have resorted to tattoos and special scars, demanding to state the hidden mark before paying. It is a powerful form of resistance, yet a testament to where the country psychologically stands.

The lecture series concludes next month with Stella Pope Duarte’s presentation of “If I Die In Juarez”, which takes place at 5:30 p.m., Nov. 13 at El Portal Restaurant, 117 W. Grant St., Phoenix.