The statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square that was toppled by American Marines and Iraqi civilians on April 9, 2003 (an event that turned out to be somewhat less spontaneous than originally thought) will be replaced by a new monument when the city is named an Arab Capital of Culture in 2013.
According to AFP, the young Iraqi artist Abbas Gharib has designed a giant 69-foot cylinder whose top flares into 18 pointed arches representing the provinces of Iraq. Gharib’s model for the monument shows a band of bronze relief sculptures around its center whose Babylonian-inspired figures recall Iraq’s ancient past. The monument will be surrounded by gardens and will have four doors that visitors can enter. Inside, a column enclosed in a 56-foot-high tube of light will show that “Iraq is still a source of illumination for all of humanity,” Gharib said.
This isn’t actually the first sculpture to replace Saddam Hussein’s statue. Just one month after the statue’s removal, at the request of Iraq’s interim government, Iraqi artist Bassem Hamad al-Dawiri created a new sculpture (see below) directly on top of the column where Saddam had stood. The piece depicted a crescent moon with a circle inside it and, below, three figures said to represent “the freedom and unity among Iraq’s Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds,” according to the artist’s obituary (he was killed in a car accident in Iraq in 2007).
As recently as 2010, the sculpture was still in the square, but in photos it appears very degraded, probably because it was hastily produced, apparently using concrete that was painted green. The new monument will surely be longer-lasting and more grandiose, but it remains to be seen whether it will be any more relevant to Iraq’s future than al-Dawiri’s vision of “freedom and unity” among the country’s religious sects and ethnic groups.
According to Le Journal des Arts, Baghdad’s designation as an Arab Capital of Culture — which is a coordinated program of the Arab League and UNESCO — will include the commissioning of 19 monuments as well as new theaters and concert halls.
— Kate Deimling