Keep Alive the Spirit of Al-Mutanabbi Street!
Welcome to the al-Mutanabbi Street Project, a lament and a commemoration of the singular power of words, seeking to make visible the literary bridge that connects us all across continents, across cultures and the passage of time. We ask what it means when any powerful group tries to erase culture, attack writers and artists, and control the free exchange of ideas.
On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's historic literary and intellectual community, named for the famed tenth century Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi. Thirty people were killed; more than a hundred were wounded.
Along with the deeply felt human loss, Baghdad also grieved the attack on its cultural center, a place of lively cafes and thoughtful bookstores, of conversations in tea and tobacco shops. The inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street was as diverse as the Iraqi population, including literature of Iraq and the Middle East, history, political theory, popular novels, scholarly works, religious tracts, technical books, poetry, and mysteries; stationery and blank school notebooks could be purchased on this street, along with children’s books, comics, and magazines. While Arabic was the predominate language, books in Persian, French, German, and English were also represented.
In response to the bombing, Beau Beausoleil, a poet and bookseller in San Francisco, put out a worldwide call to artists to respond to this human tragedy and attack on culture. Two hundred and sixty artists from twenty-four countries answered the call, creating original books, some of which you can see in our video: works that reflect both the strength and fragility of printed matter and show the endurance of the ideas within them.
We, artists and friends of the project, now need to raise $12,000 in order to:
- Ship these artists’ books to destinations in the United States, Europe and the Middle East to hold simultaneous exhibitions from 2013 through 2014.
- Send 260 Artists’ Books and 130 Letterpress Broadsides to the National Library of Baghdad to be part of their permanent collection.
Please contribute and help affirm the commonality of al-Mutanabbi Street with any street, anywhere, that holds a bookstore or cultural institution, a place where ideas are disseminated, debated and discussed. Even a small amount will help affirm a connection between this small street in Baghdad and our own cultural centers, and denounce this attack that was an attack on us all.
If you would like to more information about the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition Project, visit
Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here! And you are a part of it!