Little-known Iraqi tragedy comes to light at Yavapai College

Courtesy photo<br>
Witnesses photographed at the site of the March 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street.

Courtesy photo<br> Witnesses photographed at the site of the March 2007 bombing of Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street.

PRESCOTT - Yavapai College's Literary Southwest Series unveils a stunning and disturbing art and literary exhibition to bring awareness of a 2007 car-bomb attack on Baghdad's al-Mutanabbi Street, which killed dozens and injured more than 100.Since the 10th century, Iraqis have referred to the street as "the street of booksellers," according Jim Natal, the exhibition director. The street was devastated in the attack and didn't open again for over a year."This is our most ambitious program yet, involving both the Yavapai College Art Gallery and Library, in a moving visual and literary tribute to a horrible act of cultural destruction that rippled around the world," said Natal, who oversees the international-traveling exhibition of 130 collaborative "broadside" photographs (one for each person killed or injured in the bomb blast).From 5-7 tonight, Natal invites the public to the opening reception of "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here" in the art gallery, which is located in the Performance Hall building at the Yavapai College main campus, 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott.After the opening reception, Beau Beausoleil, a published poet and bookseller living in San Francisco, whom Natal calls "the force behind the broadside exhibit," offers a poetry reading along with Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail. The readings and discussion will take place in the college library's Susan N. Webb Community Room.In a March 5, 2009, Time magazine article, journalist Nick McDonnell quoted former bookstore owner Afram Hussein al-Fufuli: "Here they also sold bridles, saddles and shoes for religious men," said al-Fufuli, who sold books from the bookstore that he said his father opened in 1930. The attack did enough damage to the street to close it to passersby for over a year.Mikhail has published five books in Arabic and two in English. In 2001, she won the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing."Her work has such power because of its simplicity and its subtlety, as well as the cold fact that she has witnessed and survived what she writes about," Natal said. "I've been wanting to feature Dunya ever since I woke up to her reading her poetry one morning on NPR a few years ago."Both her work and the broadside show can stand alone, but together tonight they will be even more stunning."Mikhail fled her Iraqi home after Saddam Hussein put her on his enemies list. She wrote her first poems as a teenager at the start of the Iran-Iraq War. One of her collections is called "The War Works Hard:"[It] builds new housesfor the orphans,invigorates the coffin makers,gives grave diggersa pat on the backand paints a smile on the leader's face.The war works with unparalleled diligence!Yet no one gives ita word of praise.In conjunction with the art show, which runs through March 26, the library has a continuous showing of a short documentary film, "A Candle for the Shabander Café."For more information about the exhibition or lecture, call 776-2276, e-mail james.natal@yc.edu.