SOAS University of London

Co-Existent Ruins [virtual exhibition]

Co-Existent Ruins )virtual exhibition)

Date: 27 April 2020Time: 10:30 AM

Finishes: 27 June 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event Room: Virtual Exhibition

Type of Event: Virtual Event

The major exhibition we were very much hoping to welcome you to view first-hand was the visual research project Co-Existent Ruins: Exploring Iraq’s Mesopotamian Past Through Contemporary Art. As this currently isn’t possible instead from our homes to yours over the coming weeks it is our pleasure to give you an introduction and series of on-line insights into some of the visually stunning and fascinating results of the project that will be realised as an exhibition at a later date.

Co-Existent Ruins as a research project seeks to address how it might be possible to re-generate an engagement with four identified Mesopotamian ancient heritage sites (Ur, Babylon, Nippur, and Nimrud) by local Iraqi artists in post - conflict Iraq. These sites, while still providing security guards and space for international archaeological research, have become derelict during the recent traumatic wars and conflict in Iraq.

The project explores the critical question of how contemporary collaborative art projects conducted at these key archaeological sites can enable a re-engagement with this ancient heritage and history by re-locating it in the present. The works produced as a result of the project examine whether there is a capacity for artistic research to explore a new aesthetic where this ancient Mesopotamia heritage is so important in shaping Iraq’s current traumatic identity for the future.

Working with young Iraqi female artists as cultural activists at these sites has been a deliberate strategy in this highly patriarchal culture to challenge an accepted account of this history through feminist and post-colonial methodologies and critical agendas. Each artist was born near to and still lives near the archaeological site which she has researched.

The project includes work by Hanaa Malallah, in collaboration with the following Iraqi artists at the specific ancient sites inside Iraq:

  1. The Ziggurat at Nufar/Ancient Nippur/Al Qadisiyyah. (Artist: Fatima Jawdet.)
  2. The Ziggurat at Ancient Ur /Tell al Muqqayar/ Nasiriyah and its surroundings. (Artist: Reyah Abd Al-Redah.)
  3. The Ruins of Ancient Babylon/ Hela.
  4. Nimrud/ Nineveh (Mosul). (Artist: Rozhgar Mustafa.)
  5. Baghdad Archaeological Museum. (Artist: Betoul Mahdey.)

Co-Existent Ruins Project Artists

Dr Hanna Malallah

Project Principal Investigator and Project Founder

Hanaa Malallah studied Fine Art in Baghdad with an emphasis on graphics and painting. In 2005 her thesis concerning the logic order in Mesopotamian drawing gained her a PhD in the Philosophy of Painting. She has taught and lectured widely at several faculties of the University of Fine Arts in Baghdad. At the end of 2006 she left Iraq for an artist residency at the Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris and from there took up a fellowship offered by SOAS in London in 2008. Currently, and temporarily, she works as Associate Professor at Royal University for Woman (RUW) in Bahrain and concentrates on research.

Reyah Abd Al-Redah


Born in 1978 in Al Nasiriyah city, she gained a Diploma in Painting in the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad in 1997, followed by a BA in 2000 from the College of Fine Arts, University of Baghdad. She currently works as an art teacher in secondary education as well as practicing as an artist. She lives and works in Al Nasiriyah (Thee Qar) adjacent to the city to Ur Archaeological site. She has participated in many local and intentional group exhibitions, most recently in Istanbul in 2014. She held her first solo exhibition in 2017, titled The Remains in Al Nasiriyah. In 2016 Abd Al-Redah collaborated with Hanaa Malallah in a project: Drone Hits Ziggurat of Ur.

Fatimah Jawdat


Born in 1993, Jawdat has a Master of Arts Education. She is a theatrical artist who worked in theatre for 4 years, presenting 8 performances several of which won awards and honours. Since 2006 she has participated in several international exhibitions, most significantly ‘Evil Flowers’ in Poland, and ‘Unsoluble Women’ and ‘Alkamar Femel’ as well as ‘Play-Room’ in Zandam, The Netherlands.

Rozhgar Mustafa


From Sulaimania Kurdistan, Iraq, Mustafa gained an MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in 2013 after graduating from the College of Fine Art in Sulaimania, Kurdistan, Iraq in 2004. Mustafa works with different media including installation, photography, video and public live action work mainly dealing with questions of transformations, conflict and gender identity, memory, contradiction, trauma and fear. Mustafa teaches Art in the Institute of Fine Art in Sulaimania.

Betoul Mahdey


Mahdey is a British-Iraqi photojournalist born in Iraq in 1989, then living in London since 1990. She received a BA in Interior and Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Art in 2010 and a First-Class BA degree in Photojournalism from UAL London College of Communication in 2014. After working as a photojournalist, she diverted her passion to visual storytelling. In 2016, Mahdey returned to Iraq for the first time, living in Baghdad till this day. She continues to explore the country’s rich history through her lens. In 2018 she took part in two art exhibitions in Baghdad and continues to work on numerous projects.

Dr Mo Throp

Co-investigator and exhibition curator to the project

Mo Throp is an artist and Associate Researcher at Chelsea College of Arts London, concerned with issues of feminism and post-colonialism. Throp works as an artist, teacher, curator and writer and is especially interested in collaborative practices.

Sample Images and Video

Loading the player...

The Ziggurat of Ur site guard remembering Leonard Woolley