Thu, 26 May 2022

BAGHDAD, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- On a cold winter morning, people of different ages begin to gather at the al-Qishla heritage site in Iraqi capital Baghdad's old city center to enjoy music, poetry, drawing, and sculpture.

In the Rusafa side of the capital, along the Tigris River, local culture thrives in al-Qishla, an Ottoman-era military barrack, as it has become a venue for art events hosted by Iraqi poets, artists, and art lovers.

Ottoman rulers built the two-story building of al-Qishla in 1861 with corridors and halls opening onto an inner courtyard. Seven years later, the clock tower was built to serve military purposes.

The compound, now boasting a weathered facade, is part of a cultural heritage site reflecting the characteristics of Baghdad's past political and religious life.

Every Friday morning, Karim al-Khazali is keen to meet other art lovers in al-Qishla for a couple of hours on art events and enjoy the one-of-a-kind atmosphere there.

Al-Khazali, who heads the al-Mutanabi Poets, Writers and Artists Association, told Xinhua that the cultural and artistic events are usually held in the courtyard and the halls to allow artists and intellectuals to directly interact with the audience.

"There are many associations, each of which specializes in a color of literature and art, such as the Association of Writers and the Association of Artists, Poets, Sculptors, and Plastic Artists, and this gathering is held every Friday," al-Khazali said.

In Al-Khazali's opinion, such a direct interaction has a positive impact on society as it could evoke a sense of responsibility among the artists to reflect more positively upon various issues and current affairs.

The cultural events also give rise to the discovery of aspirational future artists, he said.

"Many people have talents, but they just didn't discover them. They need support and encouragement to show their abilities, while here in al-Qishla, many professionals and pioneers are available and ready to do everything they can to help the talented and art lovers," al-Khazali added.

"We find that many families, despite the low temperatures, have come to al-Qishla with their children to relax and have fun in this heritage site," he noted.

For Hussein Karam, a poet, al-Qishla provides an opportunity to meet with other poets and friends as many people come from northern and southern provinces on Friday. "We meet here to enjoy the beautiful (cultural) atmosphere."

Every Friday, sculptor Juma Salman and 20 apprentices gather to display their artworks in one of the halls of al-Qishla, and he has set up a pop-up workshop to teach people of all ages for free.

"Here we present to the public a series of exhibitions every Friday, which mainly consist of works of art in stone, thermo stone, and clay. We try to present beautiful things for visitors," Juma said while explaining the sculptor's work to young people, who are touring his hall among the group's artworks.

Looking at a painting drawn by his eight-year-old daughter Amani, Alaa Al-Rikabi said "every Friday I take her to the al-Qishla site, where she sits in the free studio with her peers, drawing, having fun and being given advice and directions of the artists supervising the studio."

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