Project Author: Rashad Salim

Rashad Salim is an expeditionary artist and designer with a particular interest in the history and development of culture and technology as reflected in ancient boats, headgear, printmaking techniques (Mesopotamian cylinder seals) and voyaging. He studied at The Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad and St Martin’s in London.

Born in Khartoum Sudan (1957) to a German Mother and an artist diplomat Father (Nizar Salim d.1982 posts include China, Sweden, Libya and ex Yugoslavia ) from a well known Iraqi family of artists, Rashad considers himself a 'EurArab' and has travelled extensively since birth though not yet across the Atlantic. As an adult and practicing artist he lived and worked gaining insight and inspiration in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and presently in London, UK.

Ark Re-Imgined

A great flood, with humanity saved by a boat, is a shared memory with about 300 narratives in oral and written traditions spanning the globe. These narratives all place the event at a time long before writing first documented the story, in Mesopotamia 5000 years ago therefor it is highly improbable that we shall ever know if and how the Ark was actually constructed. This project, however, proposes a prehistoric Mesopotamian Ark that could logically have existed: a gathering of available watercraft held together using local materials and techniques.

Tigris, reed boat, Thor Heyerdahl, 1977

By searching among traditional cultures of the Gulf region, such as the Marsh Arabs, for crafts that can be traced back to prehistory, the Ark Re-Imagined aims to compile an ABC of making. It is only with this ABC - a combination of universal logic and local sensibility - that we can begin to imagine, even recreate an Ark that could have been constructed (or gathered together) in its time.

Rashad explores in his art the principle of six around one in re-imagining the Ark. Paper boats made from pages of an Atlas gather easily into hexagonal patterns and 360 boats create an Atlas paper boat Globe- see appendix > Art from the Ark . This hexagonal pattern of six circles around one also has deep symbolic and geometric significance as a core component of the ancient Babylonian sexagesimal system of mathematics. A fundamental pattern in Islamic art it is referred to as the flower of life in Sacred Geometry. To this day, an amulet based on this pattern called the seba’ayoun is popularly given throughout Iraq to new born children as a blessing and for protection. Once painted on guffa, it is now found depicted on trucks that have taken over the haulage of cargo.

This project will work to generate and use every opportunity to bring the craft and beauty of Iraq's and the Gulf region’s riverine and maritime folk heritage into the global conversation, giving voice to itself and the environment that shaped and sustained it. The project sets out to bring examples of traditional Mesopotamian and Gulf boats and craft into the environment of international rivers such as the Thames and Potomac, and from there into museum collections. The concepts and artefacts that the project finds and creates will form a body of art and documentary works in a multiplicity of media and disciplines. Ark Re-Imagined advocates direct engagement in practice and through art for a continuity of the Mesopotamian cultural legacy; locally in Iraq, with the Iraqi diaspora, and with the global community.

Lilac Taei working with Rashad on the conceptual proposal for Ark Re-Imagined

Like the re-imagined Ark itself, the project is not a monolithic structure but a gathering: of different people, skills and perspectives. The artist is especially grateful to the architects Khalid N. Ramzi and Rand Al-Shakarchi for their assistance in visualising and 3D-modelling the architectonic structure of the Ark. This is a step in a process whose next phase is field research and workshops within Iraq.

Ground plan, profile and perspective of the Ark Re-imagined configuration of boat types. Rashad will explore the means of joining together the boats using reed bundles as well as the material and construction of the Ark superstructure (fine lines) by building scale models he shall make with Iraqi craftspeople and original material in Iraq.

Reed bundle construction of the Tigris, 1977 at the confluence of the Tigris and Eauphrates Rivers, Qurna

Live Feed from Culturunners