Al-Mutanabbi Street (Arabic: شارع المتنبي) is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling and street culture, filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Over the decades, al-Mutanabbi Street evolved into a symbol of intellectual freedom, attracting writers, artists and dissenting voices from across the country. Under Saddam Hussein’s reign, many books had to be sold in secret.
On March 5th 2007, a car bomb exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street, killing 30 people and wounding over 100. I created this image for a project of people’s responses to the bombing, called Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.
The title of the piece refers to the Siege of Baghdad in 1258, in which the city was sacked by the Mongol empire. The Grand Library of Baghdad, known as the House of Wisdom, containing books from all over the world, was destroyed. Survivors from that time said that “the waters of the Tigris ran black with the ink of scholars and red from the blood of the people.” When al-Mutanabbi Street was bombed, the river once again ran black with the ink of accumulated knowledge and culture.
This reprint is in two versions: on gray French cardstock, and metallic blue ink on black French cardstock.