Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab statue

Basra artists dispute municipality’s statue restoration methods

BASRA — A disagreement has erupted between local artists and the Basra Municipality concerning the restoration of the statue of revered Iraqi poet Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab, with social media posts and media reports alleging the use of inappropriate restoration methods.

Al-Sayyab, a leading figure in modern Arabic poetry, was born in Jaykur, Basra in 1926. He died in 1964 at the age of 38.

Hassan Al-Najjar, acting director of the Basra Municipality, denied the claims and asserted that the restoration involved specialized, weather-resistant paint with a ten-year guarantee applied by skilled professionals. “These rumors are entirely unfounded and damage the municipality’s reputation,” Al-Najjar told 964media.

However, Fathi Shaddad, head of the Basra Artists Syndicate, criticized the lack of consultation with the guild on artistic matters. “Neither the governorate nor the municipality consults us on artistic works,” Shaddad said. “New monuments are erected without our knowledge, unlike Baghdad where artistic projects involve relevant syndicates.”

Local sculptor Hassan Faleh expressed concerns about damage to the statue. “The statue has suffered damage from war, shootings, and erosion,” Faleh said. He explained the correct process of restoring the statue, which he said includes “removing old paint layers with a gas torch to expose the original bronze, followed by specialized cleaning and patching with bronze-compatible materials.”

Another sculptor, Ali Muhanna, pointed to a pattern of mismanagement of artwork by authorities: “Why restore without consulting qualified committees? Basra lacks committees adhering to scientific and artistic standards.”

The artists’ syndicate is demanding an investigation into the restoration practices and accountability for those involved. They emphasize the need for the local government to review procedures and involve qualified committees.

This is not the first controversy surrounding the restoration of the Al-Sayyab statue. On November 5, 2022, local artists criticized the use of ordinary wall crack filler, which they described as disfiguring the landmark.

Painter Hamed Saeed told 964media then that workers from Basra Municipality filled holes in the statue with regular putty, which he said failed to restore the statue and caused damage, leaving marks.

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