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Iraqi Art: A Brief Introduction

For a country as rich in its traditions and antiquity as Iraq, it comes as no surprise that Iraqi art holds a paramount amount of significance when it comes to learning about the nation’s culture. Iraq has seen a long history of trials and tribulations, and its art is one of the few ways in which Iraqis, as well as the rest of the world, can look at the country’s past and gain a deeper understanding of its foundations.


Iraqi fashion art streetwear
Ottoman miniature painting.

In early times, the city of Baghdad was infamous for being the centre of art during various historic ages. Some of its most noteworthy conserved artwork derives from the 16th century, when artists indulged in Ottoman miniature painting (pictured above). As the country saw waves of different rulers and empires, artists’ works changed with the times. They incorporated what they saw, and the alterations in the ways of daily life seeped into the art, which is evident when comparing pieces to the periods in which they were created.


Notable examples include the rule of the Safavids, during which Persian influence became a large part of Iraqi art and resulted in famous works from the poet Fuzuli. Another instance is the Sassanid period, which left behind a myriad of works in the form of metalwork, architecture, and handcrafts (pictured below).

iraqi fashion art streetwear
Bowl from the Sassanid period, 6th or 7th century.

In the early 20th century, also known as the “Nahda” or “revival” phase, Iraqi art made bigger progressions as a small group of citizens were sent to Turkey for military training. They brought back a new interpretation of art and titled themselves as The Ottoman Artists, who then began offering painting lessons to talented locals. This initiated a movement as Iraqis became more perceptive to Western art techniques. Artists intentionally pursued methods to syndicate said techniques with customary Iraqi art and indigenous subject matter.


Although preservation has been an issue in the past due to political unrest – amongst other factors – any existing pieces are now considered cultural assets. There are a number of museums and galleries scattered throughout Baghdad, which begun being established in the latter half of the 20th century. This appreciation is mirrored throughout the globe; in 2019, a 6-day festival called “Iraqisms” was held in Beirut, Lebanon which featured various forms of contemporary Iraqi art, including film screenings, poetry readings, and music sessions (pictured below). The festival curator stated; “We have missed Iraqi art. The country has been absent from the cultural radar for a long time, but I know that art is being produced despite wars and conflicts.”

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other resources which not only share factual information about Iraqi art, but also celebrate it, beginning with Dabloom’s pieces themselves which depict Iraqi art on urban and streetwear pieces. Fashion is often overlooked as a medium to showcase art, but Dabloom understands the impact clothing can have, as it often can be used to express oneself. This is reflected in both our caps and shirts. For example, the “Ishtar” oversized T-shirt appreciates the Ishtar Gate and the chamomile flowers that ornament it (pictured below).

Article written by Arshi Syed, story teller at Dabloom.

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