April 18, 2012

0177 IRAQ (Baghdad) - The Monument of Liberty in Baghdad

Baghdad is rich not only in wonderful buildings, but also in monuments. Many of the open-air sculptures are dedicated to the Iraqi people and the history of the country. One of them (and also one of Baghdad's most recognizable icons), which adorns El-Tahrir Square at the heart of Baghdad's eastern bank, is the Monument of Liberty (El Haria Monument), which has become a common motif for many Iraqi and Arab poets.

Commissioned by Abd al-Karim Qasim (who ruled the country as Prime Minister after the abolition of the monarchy), the monument was erected in 1961 and represents, according to the writer Zahir Aljizzani, "a more inclusive and representative account of Iraq’s history and culture as well as its struggle against tyranny both foreign and native as well as a struggle for freedom, justice and dignity". The sculpture was made by Jawad Saleem, a pioneering Iraqi sculptor, who studied in Paris (1938-1939), Rome (1939-1940) and London (1946-1949). It is made up of 14 separate units and comprising 25 human figures together with a horse and a bull. Behold what wrote Jibra I. Jibra in an article published in 1987 in the first issue of the Journal of Gilgamesh:

"He worked throughout 1960 on the clay figures. He sent them to Pistoia to be cast in bronze. Each figure was divided into parts in order to facilitate their shipment to Baghdad in carefully marked crates. Late that year, Selim returned to Baghdad to supervise the installation of the figures on the complete frieze.In Baghdad, the bronze pieces were taken out of the wooden crates welded together and raised on to the marble structure. Selim never stopped supervising the work being done properly. He was always on site, together with his colleagues and a crowd of curious people watching the gradual unfolding of the dramatic figures. He was busy supervising the erection of the second unit when he had a heart attack. He was hurried to hospital. Around his bed gathered the best doctors in town trying to help him pull through. But the attack was so severe that he died on January 23, 1961, not yet 42."

Is interestingly that two years after the inauguration of the monument Abd al-Karim Qasim was overthrown by the Ba'athist coup of February 8, 1963, and shot after a summary trial. After his death, the symbolism of the monument has been extended, Zahir Aljizzani believing that it "celebrate the struggle of the Iraqi people culminating in the 14 July 1963 revolution which ended the monarchy and British occupation". Iraqi writer's interpretation is clear from the following quote, taken from the article Memories of the Gypsy Caravan, published on 17 April 2011 in Alsabah Iraqi Newspaper: "When any political system becomes volatile, it disrupts national identity. I liken this to the splintering of the Iraqi culture due to corruption of both its politicians and political system. In sharp contrast, art has the opposite impact and actually unifies people in restoring their identity and unifying them as one cultural body. (For example, take the El Haria Monument (Liberty Monument) in Baghdad, by Jawad Saleem) It is the symbol of unification for the Iraqi culture and nation."

About the stamp
The stamp belongs to the Popular Industries set, designed by Faruq Hassan and issued on May 22, 2007. The series comprise 3 stamps with different denominations (250, 350 and 500 Dinars).

Sender: Ahmed Al-Hilaly (direct swap)
Sent from Tikrit (Iraq), on 22.12.2011

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