Iraq could easily become a sort of “concept” in our minds, a war-torn wreck that only exists on the news. But Iraq is a real place where people, including women like me with families, are going about their lives right now.
I have long been fascinated by the idea that life goes on in other places, even though I’m not there to observe it. I think it began when my childhood best friend and I were told that we would not attend the same schools. We were both very sad at first, and that’s when I regularly began to think about and try to visualise what was happening elsewhere. My friend is at school, doing whatever he is doing, and I am here at the same time.
It was simultaneously comforting and weird. A discovery that time and space exist outside of me and my immediate experience.
So what is happening in places far away from me now? Can I imagine what is happening somewhere very distant, and far outside my experience, like Iraq?
The artwork at the top, Iraqi Woman by Elizabeth Ashburn, which I encountered at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery the other day, illustrates both a cultural context and daily reality for a woman in Iraq. I tried to create a small Iraqi experience by making the broad bean dish pictured above (called Timan Bagalah) which is apparently a daily staple in Baghdad and which was very popular in my house. And I made some biscuits based on Hadgi Badah (or Haji Badah), with cardamom and rose to try and capture a pleasant side of Iraq; these were devoured by my sweet-loving fellers.
It was all just a reminder: Iraq is far away but it is happening now.