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Michael Rakowitz, Charita Baghdad (detail), 2020

Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz has a confession to make, right off the bat: He has never been to Iraq. This might come as a surprise, since the Iraqi-American is known for tirelessly devoting himself for over a decade to shedding light on the destruction and looting of Iraq’s indigenous cultural heritage, starting from the 2003 US occupation to the rise of Daesh, as well as extractions carried out by museums in the West.  

However, his memories — especially those of hearing conversations in Arabic between his grandmother and mother while growing up in New York — are steeped in Iraqi history. “I heard the good things and the wondrous things,” he tells Arab News.

Rakowitz’s family is of the Jewish faith. In 1941, a violent pogrom, known as Farhud, aimed at Jews, took place in Baghdad, which was then a multicultural city. Many of them eventually fled their homeland.

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