Al Mutanabbi Street

Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is a group of artists, writers and poets. Named after the 10th century classical Arab poet, Al-Mutanabbi Street is at the heart of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. On March 5, 2007, a car bomb was detonated on the street. At least 30 people were killed and 100 were wounded. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition was formed soon afterwards, in response to not just the tragic loss of life, but also to the idea of a targeted attack on a street where ideas have always been exchanged. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition was founded by San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil.

The first call out was to 130 print and letter press artists to create broadsides. You can see the complete collection of 130 broadsides here which have been touring in exhibitions across the globe. The second call out was to artists to create book art. The intention is to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street. The theme is to create work that holds both “memory and future,” exactly what was lost that day. See here for the catalogue of the artist books

See 2014 Guardian feature and Mosaic Rooms recorded lecture for panel discussion 22nd Jan 2014 about the project (scroll down).

The latest phase are 260 printmakers’ response to the bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street. I am the UK/Europe coordinator and alongside my other coordinators in the States and Australia, we are inviting artists to be part of this response. See here for the 2016 scheduled exhibitions taking place in Washington DC (US), Massachusetts (US), Exeter (UK), Oregan (US), San Fransisco (US) and Indiana (US).

The Exeter exhibition was held at Exeter Library and Kaleider in February-April 2016 with a day of events on the 4th March including a marathon poetry reading, artist book handling session, artist book and activist making workshops. This film by Josh Gaunt is a great document of the day.


Rise Up… on 5th March 2011 I flew a kite from a rooftop at Cathedral Green, Exeter – to commemorate the bombing 4 years earlier. I made the kite from a print of mine. Loved it. Photographer Rob Darch documented this art action.

Pile of Bricks… is an artist book inspired by Julie Bruck’s poem:

The bricks are screenprinted MDF blocks to be played with, rearranged and demolished.

March 9, 2007 Al-Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad

On a pile of bricks, someone had left a pink plastic flower, a pair of glasses, and a book with crisp, white pages. They glowed in the black debris of al- Mutanabbi Street. This is his shoe, a man cried out, I bought it for him. It was 9:06 a.m. The man was slim, with peppery hair and square, gray-tinted glasses. He clutched a black chunk of leather melted by the heat. I bought it for him. He kissed the piece of leather, placed it gently next to the flower, the eyeglasses and the book. Come and see it, he yelled to five men carefully digging through debris. It’s his size. This is your shoe, he yelled to the pale blue sky. My son, I bought it for you. The six men, all relatives, were hunting for a teenager’s remains. The boy had been shopping for notebooks on al-Mutanabbi Street, named for a 10th-century poet. They had been digging since Wednesday, morning till night. The men stared blankly at the shoe. No one had the heart to speak, so they kept digging. Don’t step so hard, the father said. Don’t harm him.

– Julie Bruck