By Mehiyar Kathem, on 30 March 2023
Between 12 and 18 February 2023, the Nahrein Network organised a set of events and activities for a delegation representing the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities. The delegation was led by Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani, a historian of Iraq’s modern politics, who assumed the position of Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities and Dr Laith Majeed Hussein, Deputy Minister and Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), Iraq’s national heritage institution.
First on the list of cultural and educational meetings was Newcastle University. The delegation was warmly received by the university’s management, including its president and vice-chancellor Professor Chris Day.
The hospitality and welcome from @kmerrin and colleagues was unparalleled. A meeting with Professor Chris Day – President of @UniofNewcastle with our guests from #Iraq Minister Of Culture, Director of State Board of Anquities & Chancellor of @UniversityofMos – onwards & upwards! https://t.co/k7mOlLusE1 pic.twitter.com/s27vtIXIEI
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) February 14, 2023
Dr Fakak al Badrani and Dr Laith Hussein spoke about their work and challenges in Iraq and opportunities for collaboration. Dr Qusay al Ahmedy, chancellor of the University of Mosul and Dr Rawa Qasha, director of scholarships and external relations at the university were also in attendance. On behalf of the University of Mosul, Dr Rawa Qasha (a PhD graduate of Newcastle University) gave a superb presentation on the progress being made at the University of Mosul, where she also spoke about opportunities for building research partnerships.
The group visited the Great North Museum: Hancock and its temporary exhibition on Gertrude Bell, curated by Dr Mark Jackson. Soon after, the delegation visited and spoke to the researchers and archivists who completed the digitisation of her collections.
— Mark Jackson (@mpcjackson) February 16, 2023
The delegation got the opportunity to see some of Gertrude Bell’s belongings, such as her diaries, photographs and translations of Arabic text.
Dr Laith and Dr Ahmed looking at the @GertrudeBellArc website and a photo of #mosul taken by her in 1919. Some of her other items including her notes and letters were on display #Iraq pic.twitter.com/1UADroM3iB
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) February 14, 2023
Later that day, Dr Laith Hussein delivered a lecture at the Hershel Building at Newcastle University titled ‘State Board of Antiquities and Heritage Iraq: achievements and challenges’, where he spoke about current work being implemented to rehabilitate cultural sites and Iraq’s cultural emergencies and challenges in safeguarding its rich body of cultural heritage.
Dr Laith Hussein, Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage – Iraq's national heritage institution – spoke recently at @UniofNewcastle on work at SBAH and main challenges facing #iraq cultural heritage. pic.twitter.com/XPOUezhS0h
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) March 29, 2023
The next day, after our morning train ride to London we visited the Iraqi Embassy in London and met with Ambassador to the United Kingdom His Excellency Dr Mohammed al Sadr. Along with the delegation, Professor Eleanor Robson, Director of the Nahrein Network and Head of the Department of History at University College London, discussed ways of strengthening cultural and educational partnerships.
It was a great pleasure to host Dr Ahmed Fakak, Iraq’s Minister of Culture and Dr. Laith M. Hussein, Head of State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). This past week included productive meetings and visits to many educational and cultural institutions. https://t.co/CgMbQ0K6gb
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) February 20, 2023
Next on our itinerary was a visit to the University of Oxford, where we visited three cultural institutions, the Ashmolean Museum, the School of Archaeology and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Hosted by Dr Bill Finlayson, director of EAMENA and the School of Archaeology, we discussed ways of strengthening institutional relationships with the SBAH. The delegation also visited several of the specialised labs at the university.
A short walk away, we visited the Pitt Rivers Museum, one of the world’s most distinguished anthropology-oriented museums. Dr Bill Finlayson kindly facilitated access to one of their Iraq collections, the archive of British explorer and writer, Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger. As a historian of modern Iraq, and formerly at the University of Mosul, Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani was particularly fond of the photographs of the country that captured a specific period and way of life in Iraq.
Dr Ahmed Fakak, Iraq’s Minister of Culture and Dr. Laith M. Hussein, Head of SBAH and @NahreinNetwork came to visit @EAMENA123 and @school_of_arch. They visited @Pitt_Rivers Wilfred Thesiger’s #photography archive of the #Iraq Marshes and Marsh Arabs. pic.twitter.com/YGPYKoRmIE
— EAMENA (@EAMENA123) February 16, 2023
We then set off to meet with Professor Paul Collins, former curator at the Ashmolean Museum. Professor Collins had spearheaded the revitalisation of one of the galleries at the museum that concern Ancient Iraq, introducing new visual technologies and visitor-friendly interaction. The collections including from Sumer, Assyria and Babylon were on display, including one of an Assyrian relief where its original colours were displayed through the use of a projector.
We concluded our @UniofOxford tour visiting the incredible Dia al-Azzawi exhibition @AshmoleanMuseum
Big thanks to @Bill_Finlayson and @P_T_Collins for taking the time to give us such a great tour today! pic.twitter.com/rgut9n5mWR
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) February 15, 2023
We also had opportunity to visit renowned Iraqi artist Diaa Al Azzawi’s temporary exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, featuring work looking in part at the destruction of Mosul. That exhibition instigated an interest from Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani to visit the artist. The next day, a meeting with Diaa Al Azzawi was arranged in London, where discussions ensued about life in Iraq, a conversation that reflected the hardships, trauma and troubles Iraqis and Iraqi artists have experienced over the past twenty years.
Yesterday we had the immense opportunity to visit Dia Azzawi in his studio in London with Dr Ahmed Fakak, Iraq’s Minister of Culture and Dr. Laith Hussein, Head of SBAH.
Shout out to @mysakh for making this happen!#DiaalAzzawi @Eleanor_Robson @Mehiyar pic.twitter.com/m1FhGoc95g
— The Nahrein Network (@NahreinNetwork) February 17, 2023
The next day, Professor Eleanor Robson, Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani and Dr Laith Hussein participated at a roundtable meeting to discuss the current state of cultural heritage in Iraq, and several rounds of questions were taken from participants.
Yesterday the #IraqInitiative & @NahreinNetwork welcomed Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani, Iraq's Minister for Culture, to @ChathamHouse.
The Minister discussed the new government's reform strategy and his ministry's efforts to protect and preserve the Iraq's cultural heritage. pic.twitter.com/oa72dvtMbI
— Chatham House MENA (@CH_MENAP) February 17, 2023
Lastly, the delegation visited the Iraqi Embassy where a British Museum media-oriented event was organised with Dr Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and British Museum director Dr Hartwig Fischer. The event revolved around the British Museum’s current archaeological excavations at the Sumerian city of Tello/Girsu.