Mural Arts Brings Iraqi Experience to Philadelphia

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Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program. More than 30 years old, it has supported the creation of 4,000 public art pieces that have transformed public spaces and helped the city earn the nickname “City of Murals.” Decorating facades of buildings in neighborhoods throughout the city, the organization even offers mural tours (our own Maureen Hennessey experienced one last year). Now, the organization has announced something new and exciting – a 10-episode radio broadcast starting with a large-scale performance on Independence Mall. The 90-minute performance will occur on July 29 at 6pm and will be followed by a celebration with music and food. Both events are open to the public at no charge. The show, called Radio Silence, is a new project by artist Michael Rakowitz. Inspired by Philadelphia resident and Iraqi refugee, Bahjat Abdulwahed, a well-known Iraqi broadcaster, the project shares memories of Iraq and experiences living as a refugee in America. The show will bring together Iraqi performers, refugees and even Iraq War veterans and will weave narrative, poetry and music in both English and Arabic. After the July 29 performance, WPPM PhillyCAM Radio 106.5 FM and community radio stations across the country will air the 10-episode radio show.

The July 29 performance, hosted by Rakowitz, Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University, is a prime example of event design incorporating a cultural theme. While Iraqi refugees will be sharing their stories, the entertainment will be provided by a band of musicians playing music in the Arab tradition and led by Hanna Khoury. There will be animal performers, something drawn from Iraqi tradition. Even the food will be Iraqi – hailing from the city’s only Iraqi restaurant, North Philly’s Amasi Restaurant and Hookah. Even the stage is influenced by the region. Designed by Philadelphia-based, Iraqi-born architect and painter Mayaddah Alhumssi, the stage is built as a tribute to the famous Iraqi monument, the Ziggurat of Ur.

Read more about the program here.

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