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New Partner: Introducing Studio Neshaat


When we think of mosaics, chances are that we first think of images of Roman or Greek buildings. Perhaps incredibly ornate religious buildings? Or public murals that projected people power? Many don't know that the art form originated in Mesopotamia. Creative Iraq is delighted to announce its first partnership with an Iraqi creative - Studio Neshaat. Neshaat Al Shammari first started his creative path through a sponsored British Council Programme at The Station Foundation for Entrepreneurship back in 2021, and his since then embarked on studying the art form, its techniques, and its Iraqi history.



"I'm inspired by my heritage, its quite simple. I was born in Babylon and the fact that our history is under threat from the lack of education, our sites being eroded by climate change and mismanagement only makes it worse." Neshaat is a self taught artist who draws heavily from his Babylonian heritage, reimagining it for a new audience through the medium of mosaics and paintings.


"I've been lucky enough to travel to Uruk and see the very first mosaics at the Temple of Eanna which was really the start of pursuing my love of the art form. The simplicity would have been incredibly beautiful in such an important religious structure, and from there the idea has transformed over 1000s of years but unfortunately, Iraq is no longer valuing this. This is not entirely our fault though, many of our greatest pieces are in museum halls in London, Berlin, or Paris - not very accessible for us to explore and appreciate them." Many Iraqi mosaics were taken during western excavations and are now accessible to anyone who has the luxury of travel. Famous pieces of Mesopotamian history through mosaics such as the 'The Royal Standard of Ur' can be viewed by millions for free, just not for the average Iraqi.


Neshaat does not just make art for arts sake, he has had considerable success in selling his pieces which have been purchased by individuals who have taken them to their homes in the UK, US, and of course at home in Iraq. "I want people to love the art, to talk about it, appreciate our culture and our journey. It is not easy to create such pieces, especially in an environment where no professional equipment can be bought." The artist has spent hours recreating his own mosaic 'tesserae' from local materials due to the lack of either locally made or imported products. "It gives me the chance to create something truly made in Iraq, much like our ancestors, and highlights the millenia of creativity."


For those interested in mosaics, there are many dotted around Baghdad that truly exemplify how 20th century artists embraced the ancient technique and used it to express history and identity. "If you can get to the Rasheed Hotel, it is a treasure trove of modern art. The legacy of Ghazi Al Saudi still shines brightly in a huge wall installation - his curves, colours, and variety of materials draw you in to look even further. Just outside, on the opposite side of the road is an incredible mosaic of the city of Baghdad but is unfortunately ignored by authorities and its difficult to get up and gaze of Ghazi's masterpieces. There is another fantastic example of his work in the old centre of Baghdad, near to Mustansirryah and the old market. They represent a clean and hopeful time."



Recent restoration work done has been to Faeq Hassan's masterpiece 'Women and The Birds' in Teyran Square. The outstretched arms of celebration amidst the themes of freedom and liberation is dotted with motifs of socialism, but also representative of the diversity of Iraqi people. "It's an incredible piece of public art - though not many know that Faeq Hassan did the sketches, whilst the pieces were produced in Florence. It is probably the best example of mosaic art in a public context, representing a moment of time in our past. Unfortunately there is another mosaic that is in a worse condition nearby. Ibn Haytham, one of our greatest academics, is beautifully immortalised in mosaic form but is inaccessible, deteriorating, and is a reminder that public art is suffering due to modern development. Art will never be valued more than the price of land in Baghdad. We need to build a market for art, it will bring jobs and in turn place a collective value on our artistic talents. Urban planners, architects, and artists need to work together collectively."


The theme of 'the city' is a common motif in Neshaat's paintings. "I love to imagine what Baghdad was like before the fall to the Mongols in 1258. It was the centre of learning, trade, and innovation. That is a sense of pride for the people. Unfortunately that has become lost, traded for an international perspective of violence and conflict." The shattered lines and perspectives of Neshaat's work invite you to reflect to a broken history amidst familiar motifs. "I'm currently working on a research and design project to help improve accessibility to knowledge that is either locked up by our professors who don't engage with people from outside their subject or in English. I want to make stories and designs based on our rich heritage for all, build something Iraqi and not emulate western styles all the time."



One particular motif that seems to have struck a chord with the mosaic market is 'the carpet.' Neshaat has made a number of carpets from mosaic that reimagine the way that carpets used to decorate houses on the wall. "Carpet's are hugely important to our culture - just look back in time and you'll find stories of flying carpets (not just Aladdin), prophetic messages of death hidden in the designs, and actual deaths! They preserve ancient motifs, remind us of Arab roots in the desert, and the interwoven nature of our society. I have sold a number of these now, each unique, but each with a story to tell."


Neshaat, currently staying in the UK, has partnered with Creative Iraq as a partner to sell his work abroad. One of the biggest challenges for creatives is being able to reach international markets either due to connections or logistical issues such as e-payment gateways or transportation. "Like all entrepreneurs, creatives suffer similar challenges. if we can find a way to resolve this, it will only empower us and strengthen a creative economy if it can be solved. For now, I want to tell my story to the world so have to find alternative ways. You can find out more about Studio Neshaat on studioneshaat.com, his instagram @studioneshaat, or purchase his pieces from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CreativeIraq.


The Creative Iraq store will continue to grow over coming months, offering new products from creatives that can be shipped directly to your door from the storytellers of Iraq.

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