Smithsonian Global

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

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Lost by Maddy Rosenberg.

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In March 2007, a car bomb detonated on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, ripping through the thousand-year-old book market and killing several dozen people, injuring hundreds, and decimating a traditional center for literacy and debate in Iraq’s capital city.

In response, writers, artists and book lovers began writing poems and creating hundreds of artists’ books, prints, posters, and paper art pieces to show support for and solidarity with the ancient culture of literacy in Iraq and the broader Arab world. That evolved into “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here DC 2016,” a city-wide book arts and cultural festival, hosted in part by Smithsonian Libraries.

By bringing disparate audiences together through poetry readings, translation workshops, film screenings, and exhibits of diverse and beautifully crafted artists’ books and prints, including an exhibition by American artists at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Library and a commemorative reading at the museums’ Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, the festival sought to foster conversation about the importance of free exchange of ideas and the protection of cultural expression. 

People

Anne Evenhaugen  

Anne is the head librarian for the Smithsonian’s American Art and Portrait Gallery Library.

Helen Frederick  

Helen Frederick is an artist, curator, educator, and founder of Pyramid Atlantic, a non-profit contemporary arts center focused on the paper arts.