In three fantasy themes, Al Tajer imagines alternative scenarios to the 1958 coup and another turning point in Iraq’s modern history, the 1920 rebellion against the British occupation.
“The first imagines the coup leaders Qasim and Abdul Salam Arif establishing an opposition party to monitor and peacefully correct the government’s lapses,” Al Tajer explained. “The second imagines the arrest of the coup leaders after their coup failed.”
Surprisingly, the third work imagines that the 1920 rebels were able to expel the British occupation and gather to celebrate in a picture showing Iraq’s diversity and contradictions.
“The scene is dominated by tribal leaders, a reminder of the ones we have now,” said Al Tajer. “The viewer has the full right to judge this alternative scenario.”
Another painting imagines that Karl Marx was executed by later Marxist leaders, like Lenin, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, among others.
“This shows the difference between the charm of an idea and the distortion inflicted on it after being applied on the ground, when it becomes linked to ideological fanaticism and the abolition of the other,” Al Tajer said.
The Covid-19 pandemic also prompted Al Tajer to express his ideas on the importance of science. “In Search for Hope” depicts a scientist sitting at a microscope surrounded by a desperate crowd of political, military and religious leaders.
Salih Elias, the cultural desk officer at the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, described the exhibition as “extraordinary”.
“It highlights social and political issues since the Royal era so far, with an obvious touch inspired by Iraq’s ancient history and symbols.”
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Elias admired the artist’s choice of topics. “His controversial themes and protagonists attract the visitors,” he said. “Personally, I stood twice or thrice to contemplate his paintings. The details were just amazingly accomplished.”
Zaid Issam, an Amman-based Iraqi architect, also attended the exhibition.
“It is an excellent exhibition. The artworks touch the conscience of every Iraqi,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “The artist is not shy to express his own intellectual ideas and his personal reading of reality and history.”