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Where Trumpets Trump AK-47s… //


Photos from opening night courtesy Amira Radwan >>

I once said that the most creative time in the Middle East is when there’s a war happening. It seems I’m not alone. Iraqi-Canadian painter Sundus Abdul Hadi’s interactive multimedia exhibit Warchestra, which opened on April 24th at the Toronto Free Gallery, highlights Arab culture and heritage, specifically Iraqi culture and heritage, at the time of war. The installation features a number of collaborations with poets and musicians like The Narcicyst, Meryem Saci, Suheir Hammad, Stefan Christoff, Jason “Blackbird” Selman, and Modibo Keita to accompany a series of paintings featuring stereotypical images of Arabs (you know gun slinging, and violently scary) in the Western media. The contrast in these images was the substitution of weapons with instruments – rocket launchers, AK-47s and tanks were replaced by clarinets, violins, and trumpets, and musical components strapped themselves to the paintings in order to reiterate the message. Trumpets trump AK-47s and blast walls emulate zithers but this is not meant to tone down the original images, the objective was to have visitors leave the exhibition with re-imagined insight into the crisis in the Middle East through the images and sounds they are exposed to.

Sundus truly deserves the term “artist,” a word I don’t like using mainly because its broad and its definition has been blurred, by the latter I mean that people who aren’t really artists identify themselves as such. She has succeeded at evoking the message of countering the ongoing negative images and stereotypes about the Middle East clearly through the recreation of Iraq’s sounds, the representation of displacement (“Qanun”), the symbolism of the Palestinian olive tree as a symbol of resistance (and a little homage to Yasser Arafat’s UN speech in “Keys of Return”), and other details all help the viewer understand the installation – whether aware or not. But nothing describes Warchestra‘s aim better than the caption on “Baghdead,” which reads: “Calling out to cultural producers and creative minds to alter their destiny and to change the way the mass media depicts people of Arab origin, especially at time of war.”

The exhibit is at the Toronto Free Gallery until May 22nd.


About the Author: Danah Abdulla was not born in Canada but has lived here since the age of two. A Palestinian with a degree from the University of Ottawa in something other than Engineering (Mass Communications, minor Commerce), she lives in Toronto where she works as a Digital Cultivator for a big advertising agency. She’s a freelance writer and a blogger. She likes to doodle, read, make jokes, and dance.

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