States of the Arts


Migrant 3

by Hayv Kahraman

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The two women of Migrant 3 are cropped at the waist, their top halves presented as near-reflections of each other. The work’s shape and symmetry may remind us of a playing card, but there is little fun to be had here. The top figure pinches her tongue with one hand, pulling it from her mouth, while readying a pair of sharp scissors with the other. The sight is not for the squeamish; with the suggestion of cold metal meeting flesh, the artist invites us to grimace or shudder in horror. The figure below, by contrast, is empty-handed. She points towards her closed lips, as if drawing a parallel to her own muteness.

Words by John Wadsworth


directed by Mohamed Al-Daradji
Feature film

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Carnage engulfs Baghdad. Flames erupt from the streets. A siren pierces the air. Ahlaam blasts into action with this alarming scene, before drawing us quickly to a calmer city, half a decade younger. From here, we embark on separate journeys. One follows the English student that gives the film its name. A second traces a soldier, Ali. Another belongs to Mehdi, soon to become a doctor. Though their paths are distinct, they all intertwine at a psychiatric hospital. When five years have passed, we are dragged into the chaos alongside them, to helplessly confront the havoc wrought during the invasion of Iraq.

Words by Hugh Maloney


by Dunya Mikhail

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Tablet: a solid slab inscribed with text, a medicinal pill, a writing pad, a portable computer. Just as the title of Dunya Mikhail’s poem has many definitions, its lines are rich with layered meanings. The work is broken into twenty-four short sections, narratively distinct but often loosely connected. Part five ponders the division of humanity by borders: ‘Water needs no wars / to mix with water / and fill up spaces.’ Part eight strikes a more inclusive note: ‘On the first morning / of the new year / all of us will look up / at the same sun.’ Themes recur, from love to imprisonment, war to censorship.

Words by John Wadsworth

Ya hamam

by Salima Murad

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‘Ya hamam’ begins with a series of surprises. A meditative oud solo is supplanted by a jaunty, upbeat theme for the whole ensemble, which is in turn cut short by a more expressive string melody. Such abrupt shifts continue throughout the song, but familiarity leaves each one feeling more natural than the last. As we listen, motivic and rhythmic connections emerge between the apparently opposed elements. Salima Murad’s soaring voice rises above the layers of sound. At once emotive and imperious, she tells the story of a dove as if imparting a deeply felt personal experience.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

More to discover

Migrant 3: Visit Hayv Kahraman’s website here, featuring essays, interviews, and images of the artist’s works.

Ahlaam: Watch the trailer here.

Tablets: Read the poem here. Randa Jarrar has interviewed Dunya Mikhail for PEN.

Ya hamam: Listen to the track here.

Question of the day

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