Wed, 01 Dec 2021

BAGHDAD, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- An Iraqi artist uses wood to depict Baghdad's historic buildings and landmarks, in order to urge Iraqi society to protect the cultural heritage from gradual disappearance.

At the University of Baghdad, Hassan Mansour, 32, visual artist and sculpture lecturer at the College of Arts and Cultural Education, was hammering a chisel in his workshop to outline traditional Shanasheel windows that flourished in traditional Iraqi houses since the Middle Ages and up to the 20th century.

Shanasheel is a type of projecting window with carved wood latticework usually built on the upper floors of houses. People used to build Shanasheel on facades of historic houses or in their courtyards.

While working on one of his works, Mansour told Xinhua that after he graduated from the College of Fine Arts, "I majored in woodcarving, such as Burmese teak, and I made some artworks about Baghdad's heritage, our ancient civilization, and the environment in which I live."

As a sculptor, Mansour prefers wood to clay or marble because he thinks it gives him more freedom and flexibility in shaping his artworks.

Mansour seeks to use woodcarving to document the traditional Baghdadi houses, which began to disappear amid the dominance of modern construction.

Mansour mainly focuses on depicting historic neighborhoods, old markets, traditional carts used by street vendors, Shanasheel windows, and views of the Tigris River.

"These traditional buildings in the narrow alleys and old neighborhoods need maintenance and reconstruction because they record the life of the Baghdadi community, and this heritage is an essential part of our identity and culture," Mansour said.

Over the centuries, Baghdad and many Iraqi cities featured attractive designs and buildings inspired by Middle Eastern architecture. However, these landmarks started to disappear after 2003 due to wars and negligence.

Many homes decorated with Shanasheel were abandoned and dilapidated, while random modern designs prevailed despite not being connected to the Iraqi environment and heritage.

Mansour believes that he has to raise awareness in Iraqi society to protect the country's heritage.

"Some people don't care about the heritage buildings, so I hope the government will protect these landmarks or include a whole old area in a protection and renovation program to make it a tourist destination," Mansour said.

Mansour's woodcarving works of Iraqi cultural heritage have finally found great acceptance among Iraqis, and he is optimistic that this will enhance the importance of the heritage culture to Iraqis.

These woodcarving works are popular these days among Iraqis at home and abroad, and they are decorating shopping malls, stores, restaurants, cafes, and even their modern homes with heritage artworks, Mansour said.

"When I post a heritage artwork (on social media), many people came to comment that they wish to own this artwork in any possible way," he added.

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