In the mid-Seventies, a group of young Iraqi artists – Arabs and Kurds – left their country to continue studies in the art academies of Rome and Florence. Things changed dramatically for the worse in the Eighties, and it became too dangerous for them to return. It still is, and this documentary looks at their art, what they’ve done since, how they look at the world, and what it’s like to be in ‘voluntary’ exile from your homeland.
All the artists here have been successful to a greater or lesser extent, and have felt welcomed in their various adopted countries – Italy, Holland and Sweden – so this is not exclusively the litany of woe we might expect. But there are, inevitably, some sad elements, stories and observations. One of them admits, in fact, that he rarely paints these days precisely because of all the destruction in the Middle East, while another has created an installation in memory of his brother who was executed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
And then there is Kadhum Al Dakhail, resident in Sweden, who observes that blood-spattered reality is in a sense already a form of graphic ‘artwork’ which it would be superfluous to depict, so he tends to concentrate on less visceral subject matter. Dutch-based artist Afifa Aleiby specialises in (beautiful) monumental art and representational paintings… Sculptor Fuad Azziz, in Florence, makes striking flat ‘two-dimensional’ figures, as well as illustrating children’s books … The eloquent Resmi Al Kafaji combines Iraqi and Italian memories by showing how the Tuscan hills resemble a woman in robes… And there are snippets from a couple of theatrical performance pieces.
Mirrors Of Diaspora has a few moments of tedium, and could safely have been pruned a little. But it’s worth seeing – preferably on the big screen – and for the most part it’s illuminating.