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Art & Politics : Hella Mewis Freed in Iraq

Today for Art & Politics we are exploring the freeing of kidnapping victim Hella Mewis in Baghdad.

Through Art & Politics, Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring you stories new and old of the symbiotic nature of art and politics!

On Monday, 20th July, Hella Mewis was kidnapped by militants in Baghdad. Iraqi security have now confirmed the German curator’s release. She was freed on the morning of 24th July. The motives behind the kidnapping are yet to be confirmed. Further, identity of the culprits is also unknown.

Who is Hella Mewis?

A curator of the arts, Hella Mewis left Germany a decade ago. Finding the Western market over-saturated, she wanted to move to Iraq. A country that was in dire need for a platform supporting art & culture. Thus, in association with the Goethe Institute, Mewis moved to Baghdad. Here, she set up Tarkib.

Tarkib is an institute for Contemporary Art. It was founded in 2015. Since then, the centre has become a place for talent to meet appreciation. Local artists can exhibit their work here. And consequently, local lovers of art have access to it. However, much of the art shown is politically charged and highly controversial. The overarching artistic themes tend to be anti-establishment. Especially in the current, politically-tense atmosphere, this often poses problems. Nonetheless, Bait Tarkib prides itself in being a safe haven for artistic and political expression.

Political Climate in Iraq

The citizens of Iraq have been ferociously protesting for their rights since late 2019. Unemployment, lack of security and basic facilities are a few reasons for the civil unrest. September 2019 was the final straw. When Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi demoted the country’s anti-terrorism chief. Thus putting the nation’s security under serious risk. Since then, the scale of protests are comparable to those held in 2003. When Sadam Hussein was overthrown.

Mewis’ Tarkib has encouraged artists to express their political views through art. Further, Mewis herself has been part of several protests. And has often condemned the Iraqi government. These are rumoured to be the reasons for her kidnapping.


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