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Michael Rakowitz - Crafting ‘ghosts’ from Iraq’s lost culture

Sarah Geis follows artist Michael Rakowitz in Chicago, as he and his team create colourful likenesses of destroyed ancient Assyrian wall reliefs

US artist Michael Rakowitz has been creating thought-provoking work for the past two decades – from designing inflatable shelters for homeless people in New York, to a 14ft long statue of an Assyrian winged bull, made of over 10,000 date syrup cans, which currently stands in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Michael’s Iraqi heritage is a cultural thread running through much of his art. He’s currently working on the latest instalment of a long-running project called The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, which creates what he calls ‘ghosts’ of archaeological objects that have been destroyed or looted from Iraq in the past 15 years.

Sarah Geis meets Michael at his Chicago studio and follows him throughout the process of recreating carved reliefs which adorned a room of the Northwest Palace of Nimrud, destroyed in 2015 by the Islamic State group. However, he’s not making them from stone but colourful Arabic food packaging and cardboard – for a fast-approaching exhibition this November.

Produced by Karl Bos for BBC World Service.

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27 minutes


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