Exhibition Focused on Strength, Resilience of Iraqi Women

"Iraqi War Refugees," an exhibition of black and white portraits by Iraqi-­‐American photographer and Lincoln resident Wesaam Al-­‐Badry opens Friday, August 3, at a temporary gallery upstairs at the corner of 8th and Q (301 N. 8th Street) in the Haymarket.

"I focused on Iraqi women because of their resilience and strength," Al-­‐Badry said of the exhibit. "I wanted to give them a voice."

Among the works on display, "Saudi Arabia 1991," a portrait of the artist's mother, Aeda al-­‐Khafaji.

"My mother tried twice to walk across the war zone. The first time she made it to the camp and did not get in. The second time she walked three days to the camp in Saudia Arabia, with five kids," Al-­‐Badry says.

The exhibit also includes a 7-­‐foot by 7-­‐foot canvas tent that housed Iraqi refugees in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein crushed an uprising in southern Iraq following the first Gulf War.

Al-­‐Badry lived with his family for four and a half years in just such a tent in Rafa, Saudi Arabia, before they immigrated to Lincoln in 1994.

Al-­‐Badry, 28, says he wants viewers to "share the feeling of despair that so many refugees experience" and to "project themselves into the physical and psychological spaces created."

As part of the "Iraqi War Refugees" project, Al-­‐Badry asked each of the women to bring an item they saved from their homes.

"I figured the women would bring photos or family heirlooms. None of the women took any prized possessions with them. For them, saving their families was all that mattered," Al-­‐Badry says.

One portrait in the exhibit shows a woman posing with a sheet folded on her head, which she used to carry their clothes.

"These women have overcome so many hardships, many of them lost husbands and other family members in Saddam, and all of them lost their homeland and their way of life."

Perhaps the exhibitions most moving photograph of a girl who has a box commemorating the day her father escaped one of Saddam's notorious execution camps, Al-­‐Badry says. When her father was brought there, the commander said he was done for the day and released the man.

Al-­‐Badry was born in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. He plans to return to his native Iraq for the first time this fall to document those still displaced and derailed by war, focusing on women and children. He hopes to raise money for his trip through the online startup site kickstarter.com.

Al-­‐Badry's work has been featured in the Huffington Post and on NPR, and galleries in Lincoln and Kansas City have shown his work. You can find his blog at powbangpow.blogspot.com.

Al-­‐Badry has received support from Amnesty International –Midwest, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lincoln artist Anne Burkholder and Lincoln writer Mary Pipher.

Saturday Aug 04, 2012 | 12:00 am
Contact: Website: powbangpow.blogspot.com


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