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Ark Re-imagined

Ark Re-imagined challenges popular images of the Ark based on European boat-building techniques far removed from the time and place of the Great Flood, when in the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene, sea level in the Gulf rose 120 meters by around 8,000 BCE as part of a global climate event of unknown cause. Instead, the project envisions a Mesopotamian Ark, based on boat types and vernacular architectural forms that persisted on the Tigris and Euphrates river system in an unbroken tradition for many millennia until the conflicts and disruptions of the late 20th and early 21st century brought them close to extinction.

This Ark is not a unique boat of monumental size that had never been built before, but a gathering of many ordinary vessels: a community bringing together what they already have into a structure of unity that would enable them to survive catastrophe. The project does not aim to prove the existence or form of an ancient Ark, but uses the concept of the Ark as a catalyst to explore and revitalize Iraq’s craft heritage, and to invite cross-cultural conversation and re-imagining.

Through engaging communities in sharing the history and skills of Iraq’s boat–building traditions, the project aims to regenerate local economies and create sustainable livelihoods. This endangered heritage is a catalyst for inter-generational learning. During boat–building workshops, all generations are attracted: Elders share knowledge and memories; adult craftspeople hone their skills; children and young experience something they have never seen before.

Ark Re-imagined is preparing to be presented as Iraq's first National Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, to be held in 2021.

Project Films

UN75: Rising Waters / Resilient Cultures

Following the postponement of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, this discussion brought together voices from the world of art, architecture and advocacy to explore cultural resilience and the need for innovation and imagination in the face of rising sea levels.

Artwork Gallery

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Rashad Salim in Southern Iraq

Rashad Salim in a traditional Guffa on the Tigris River, Southern Iraq

Several Guffa boats in process in a boat-making workshop, Southern Iraq

Iraqi boat-makers assembling a traditional style boat for use on the Tigris River

Iraqi boat-makers assembling a traditional style boat for use on the Tigris River

Sketches of Rashad Salim's 'Ark Reimagined' installation that will be dispayed at the Venice Architecture Biennial, 2021

The upcoming public display of 'Ark Reimagined' in Venice will explore links between Venice’s wetland environment and that of southern Iraq, and investigate boats from prehistoric origins to the apex of design in both the Venetian boating tradition and the disappearing boats of Basra’s canals and marshes.

Like Venice, southern Iraq is now facing the critical challenge of a man-made climate event – the advent of the Anthropocene – comparable to the ancient Flood (sea level rise between the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs).

An introduction to the 'Ark for Iraq' project by Safina Projects CIC, a project co-founded by Rashad Salim and Hannah Lewis

Featured Artist

Rashad Nov 2019

Rashad Salim

Rashad Salim is an expeditionary artist and designer with a particular interest in the history and development of culture and technology as reflected in ancient boats, headgear, printmaking techniques (Mesopotamian cylinder seals) and voyaging. He is now preparing to present the Ark Re-imagined as Iraq's National Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021.

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