Currently based between Baghdad and London, Zainab Aldehaimy completed her undergraduate studies in Studio Arts and Art History at the American University of Beirut, and recently finished her Masters in Fine Art Practice at the Glasgow School of Art. Heavily influenced by her childhood experiences growing up in Baghdad, the multimedia artist often uses her work to critique the political conflicts in Iraq. In remembrance of 20th anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq on March 20th 2003, we spoke to Zainab about her work Salad- زلاطة, an immersive sound installation that delves into the intersection of war and childhood and explores the deep-seated association between the sound of prayer and fear
To listen to the work, please scroll to the end of this page
About the project
Salad – زلاطة is an immersive sound installation that delves into the intersection of war and childhood. The work explores the deep-seated association between the sound of prayer and fear. This association was formed through the artist’s experience of growing up in Aladamiyah, Baghdad, where times of prayer were often accompanied by violent clashes. This work combines sound footage taken from the internet of clashes in Baghdad and a recording of a prayer from a local mosque in 2004, manipulating the sound to replicate the artist’s visceral childhood memories.
The research behind this work aims to gather a cloud of pre-existing online content that can shed light on Iraq’s complex contemporary history. The ongoing instability of the political situation in Iraq has led to an absence of comprehensive and unbiased records of the events of the past few decades. In response to this lack of transparent documentation and her own curiosity to understand what was happening around her as a child, Zainab used documentation found on the internet to compile a plausible truth.
The work is titled Salad as the word Zalata (salad) is an expression used by Iraqis to describe events that happen often.
5 questions with Zainab Aldehaimy
How did this project come to life?
The project came to life unintentionally while working on a different project during my Master’s degree at the Glasgow School of Art. While conducting research, I began to collect various online posts and compiled them into my own archive. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I became interested in the sound component after repeatedly rewatching the videos, and realized sound is an important factor when it comes to memory. I started playing with sound and created a personal memory. As I continued to compile the sounds, I realized it was too significant not to share and present.
For those who haven’t had the chance to listen to the work yet, could you please describe it?
The work is a compilation of sounds, including the sound of prayer, which is prevalent in Iraq and occurs a few times a day. In this work, I mixed the sound of prayer with the sound of clashes in Baghdad taken during the invasion and the sectarian war that followed. All the sounds in the work were taken from content posted on the internet, it’s like a sound collage. The video aims to recreate a specific memory from my childhood that I’m sure many have experienced, and to document what was happening in Iraq at that time.
Have you ever considered adding images to the sound?
No, I haven’t considered adding images to the video because the memory I wanted to recreate is a very specific one from my childhood. When the shootings occurred, it was often early in the morning during prayer time, and I would be in my bedroom just listening. The experience is not always very visual, so adding images was never on my mind.
The work is accompanied by a picture – why did you choose that particular picture?
In the picture I chose, the soldier is making an ironic gesture and saying in the caption “That’s right, fuck you Iraq!”. I chose the picture because it portrays the situation in a slightly humorous way. We have a saying in Iraq that translates to “on top of renting, they’re stomping” which is exactly the situation of this picture. The picture shows a young American soldier coming to invade Iraq, yet he is the one bothered by it. The soldier, one of hundred others on Facebook, has a whole album on his account from his time in Iraq with offensive captions.
Is this project solely an expression of your memory, or do you also want to convey a message to people regarding the Iraq war?
I created this work not only to document the events that took place in Baghdad, but also to document the mental destruction the war and conflict in Iraq has caused. Although the work is meant for Iraqi audience or people who have experienced war, but it is still interesting to hear what others get out of it. I’ve shown the work to audience that cannot relate to the work before, and their reactions have been quite different from what I expected. Some found it meditative and peaceful, which wasn’t my intention. Ultimately, I can’t say what people will take away from it, but I hope that it serves as a reminder that the war in Iraq is still ongoing 20 years later.
Get in touch
Click here to find Zainab on Vimeo
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