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The River Ran Black with Ink

Price

$30

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.

On the left, a pencil drawing of al-Mutanabbi street, with sheets of paper flying in the wind, and Arabic writing along the bottom saying "The river ran black with ink." On the right, a photograph of a printing press, with the inked linocut block and the printed sheet.
Initial sketch, and fresh off the press.

 

Linocut image in black ink on cream paper of a street in Baghdad, with sheets of paper flying in the wind, and Arabic writing along the bottom saying "The river ran black with ink."
Black ink on gray paper.

 

Linocut image in metallic blue ink on black paper of a street in Baghdad, with sheets of paper flying in the wind, and Arabic writing along the bottom saying "The river ran black with ink."
Metallic blue ink on black paper.

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