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a development from Strokes of Genius

Once upon a time Mesopotamia set the ideals of civilzation upon human kind. Lofty ideals come robed in enduring light.  Ancient Babylonian text

iNCiA is an independent, non-political, non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to advancing Iraqi art and the education of the public in Iraqi art as an integral part of world art, in particular, through the provision and assistance in the provision of exhibitions, literature, workshops, website and advocacy.  Steps are being taken to register iNCiA as a charity through the Charities Commission in the UK.  iNCiA is a development from Strokes of Genius: Contemporary Iraqi Art (SOG) a groundbreaking project dedicated to bringing together Iraq's scattered 'talents in the wind' and communicating the positive and creative energies of Iraqi artists world-wide, past and present.  Founded in 1995 by the London based Iraqi artist Maysaloun Faraj, SOG grew to encompass a dedicated body of volunteers working in collaboration on all aspects. This includes Dr Ulrike al-Khamis, Rashad Selim, Hana Mal Allah, Sadik Alfraji and important others*.  Supported by the Arts Council of England, Visiting Arts, art establishments in the UK & overseas as well as tremendous In-Kind Support, SOG was able to establish and build upon a ground-breaking archive & database containing extensive information on Iraqi artists world-wide (past & present).  This was the basis for a 3-part project comprising this website, exhibition tour (UK & USA 2000-3) and the book (Saqi Books 2001 - Edited by Maysaloun Faraj).  SOG has continued to reverberate on an international scale and has developed as an international network of contemporary Iraqi artists, hence iNCiA.  Progress on many levels continues and all Iraqi artists are encouraged to keep iNCiA updated at all times.

Throughout history, Mesopotamia has been referred to as the 'Cradle of Civilisation' and its art, treasured in museums worldwide is praised as one of the greatest achievements of mankind. Today, Iraqi art forms an important facet of the kaleidoscope of global contemporary art to which the artists contribute with a diverse yet distinct vocabulary formed by their unique artistic, cultural and religious roots.  Due to recent world events, as a result of which many Iraqis have had to seek alternative existences outside their homeland, an innovative body of artworks by Iraqi artists has emerged and taken shape. Many of these address contemporary themes informed by the complexities of the artists' lives, be it outside Iraq, in the distressed position of being an 'other', or indeed within Iraq, where day to day survival has become for many an enormous struggle and an unprecedented burden.

In March 1995, I began gathering information about Iraqi artists and launched the Strokes of Genius international survey.  Consequently, a unique and expanding database and archive was established.  This comprises artists' CVs, personal statements, supportive documentation, catalogues, visual material: photographs, transparencies, digital images, tapes, texts and video recordings featuring interviews with various artists. 

A year later, I joined forces with Edinburgh based curator Dr Ulrike al-Khamis.  Formerly Curator of Islamic art and culture in the Glasgow Museums, Ulrike joined the National Museums of Scotland in 1999.  Her valuable expertise, guidance and personal commitment were to prove fundamental on every level.  Over the years this two-person team expanded to incorporate an increasing number of dedicated volunteer members.  At this point, I should like to pay tribute to the artist Rashad Selim, for his unwavering dedication and pivotal role in moving the project ahead.  His knowledge of and connections with a great number of Iraqi artists worldwide were to prove crucial to the development of our undertaking. 

As time went on, we were able to identify a dynamic body of Regional Representatives who continue to be instrumental in liaising between artists abroad and the organisation at base in London.  External specialist advice has been generously provided and continues to be sought as necessary and in accordance with the project's overall development.  Gradually Strokes of Genius/iNCiA succeeded in gaining the support of national and international art establishments including the Arts Council of England,Visiting Arts, British MuseumBrunei Gallery-SOAS and many others worldwide, without which many of our accomplishments would not have been possible.

At the beginning, our target audience was mainly those with an interest in Iraq, the Middle East and the Islamic world at large.  In recent years however, Iraqi art has gained a place in the international art scene be it through acquisitions made by prestigious establishments like the British Museum or indeed international auctions hosted by acclaimed auction houses namely Christies, Sothebys and Bonhams.  With current world events, almost all Iraqi related issues have seen an increase in interest, be it in a political, humanitarian or historical context (as noted with the rise of attendees to the British Museum's Mesopotamian Halls) or indeed its arts & culture.  Over the past 11 years, this project in its entirety has been an ongoing labor of love driven by our passionate belief in the remarkable creative abilities of the Iraqi artist, stemming from the depths of history, the 'Cradle of Civilization'.  Hence, we do believe it is ever so important, now more than ever before, to safe guard this valuable artistic heritage and ongoing creativity, particularly in light of recent events in Iraq.  When Strokes of Genius was initiated, our main motivation was to gather the scattered energies of Iraqi artists 'dispersed' world-over and share it with the rest of the world.  Today, we are driven by the thought of gathering what is 'in' Iraq, or should I say, what is left of it, before it is just too late!   We hope that through the peaceful and universal language of art our efforts will lead to further understanding, tolerance and much needed compassion, essential ingredients for a peaceful and more hopeful future. 

i N C i A is run by a dedicated body of volunteers working in collaboration on all aspects, each contributing from within their particular field of expertise.

Maysaloun Faraj, Artist/Founder iNCiA London                    
Dr Ulrike Al Khamis, Curator/Senior Advisor Edinburgh                   
Rashad Selim, Artist/Senior Advisor London & Europe

Sadik Alfraji, Artist/Graphic Designer Netherlands
Leila Kubba, Artist USA
Hana Mal Allah, Artist Baghdad
Ali Mandalawi, Artist UK

Patricia Bascom . CheckPoint Editorial . Editorial
Camilla Edwards . Visiting Arts . Editor
Dr. Venetia Porter . British Museum . Curator                                  
Abdul Virgi . Davis & Co . Accountants and Registered Auditors
Faris Mousawi . MPG - Manchester Print Graphics
Nadine Benchaffai . Marketing Anaylist 
Ahmad Mousawi . IPS Studio . Internet & Multi media
Nameer Asad . Journalism & Translation

Ala Mahdi . Australia . Editor
Leila Kawash . USA . Artist
Ihsan al-Khatieb . New Zealand . Artist
Dara Taher . Jordan . Collector
Hana Mal Allah . Baghdad . Artist/Writer
Hala al-Sarraf . Baghdad . Collector
Sina Ata . The Gulf . Artist

iNCiA would not have been possible without the support and dedication to all mentioned above and many others who know themselves.  This work was supported by Arts Council England, Visiting Arts and the Education Department at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. 

Copyright ©1995-2012 iNCiA.  All rights reserved. Reproduction, including downloading and/or retransmission of images from the iNCiA website is strictly prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions. Users desiring to reproduce or retransmit any images must secure the appropriate copyright and other authorization from iNCiA.  For further information Contact Us.

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