Zeina Magazachi

"The Sound of Voids"

Section MS1, Kamil Dalkir

Keywords: installation, model-making, moving image, memory

The Media has been very crucial in shaping my ethnic identity for many reasons. My parents immigrated to France in the year 1990, at the start of the Gulf War - where I was born and raised with a strong link to Iraqi culture and traditions. During a family winter break in Baghdad, it soon became obvious that this vacation would not be like any other. At a time when Saddam's government began to prepare for war, US and British troops made their way to invade Iraq, it became clear that our return to France would be delayed.

A morning, in February, a car picked us up, and drove for hours until we reached the Jordanian border. We then were able to board a plane from Amman and leave for France. At this moment in time, I didn’t realise that this would be the last time I would see Baghdad ever again. And ever since, it has been a struggle to rebuild my memory of the city of Baghdad.

The news became the centre of our household. Through many different outlets, Baghdad was depicted as a city in ruin. On TV, at every news forecast, endless footage of explosions and attacks on the country were shown. I searched for information elsewhere, and used to type “Baghdad” on google images every now and then... but again, all I saw were images of people covered in blood or the execution of Saddam Hussein. The choice of media to represent Iraq only through its recent history completely changed the image I had of my country. Iraq, and specifically Baghdad now represented chaos to me. My memories slowly began to fade and were gradually replaced by what I saw on the news.

This project consists of a triptych of interviews (of two prominent Iraqi architects residing overseas - Maath Al Alousi1 and Kanan Makiya2), visuals of an Iraqi embassy, and audio from news coverage of the Iraqi war. This composition holds the stories with which my image of Iraq has been shaped.

  1. Maath Al Alousi, is a renowned architect, notable painter, photographer and writer. He is an essential figure of Iraqi modern architecture and has worked alongside Dr. Rifat Chadirji and Robert Venturi. Two of his most celebrated projects include the Haifa Street - Al Karkh Development, and his home in Baghdad, the Alousi Cube House. 

  2. Kanan Makiya, son of Dr. Mohamed Saleh Makiya, Iraq’s pioneer of regional architecture, is a writer and a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Brandeis. After working as an architect in his father’s firm for a while, Makiya received international attention writing the Republic of Fear in 1989. He is also famous for his controversial position in favour of the American invasion in 2003.