“In Sweden I have one task and one message” says journalist, art critic and curator Ashraf Atraqchi, the new ICORN guest writer in Stockholm: “ I want to be a bridge between artists in Mosul and the free world. I will try to be my city’s voice, because that voice has been absent for far too long. First and foremost I will tell about the destruction of the modern art, because that story is not getting any attention”.
As an independent artist and writer Ashraf Atraqchi had been under pressure in his home town Mosul for many years. After publishing an article about the Iraqi artist Fawzi Ismaiel the threats intensified, and he barely escaped an attempt on his life. When the IS occupied Mosul last year he had no choice but to flee to Turkey. He has now arrived with his family in Stockholm, invited by Stockholm City of Refuge.
“Ashraf is a cultural hero” says Kulturhuset Stadsteatern’s Johan Wirfält, “and we will work together to increase the consciousness of what it means to recieve death threats just because you are protecting arts and democracy. At the same time, the ICORN programme is a reminder that freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted in Sweden either. Even here writers are exposed to threats”, he says.
Ashraf Atraqchi was shocked when watching a video showing IS’ destruction of priceless artworks at a museum in Mosul, but not paralyzed: “ I started to collect paintings, sculptures and photographs; copies or works that resemble the destroyed pieces” he said in an interview with leading Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “ I have a dream”, he confesses towards the end of the interview, “ I want to organise a big festival in Mosul. On a large stage I will reveal the restored sculptures to the public. Together we will celebrate their resurrection.”
Press release in Swedish from Kulturhuset Stadsteatern Stockholm.