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On Saturday, September 15, 2007, my husband and I attended an art exhibit entitled “ENDURING SPIRIT” which was led by artists Amer Hanna Fatuhi (Art Exhibit Supervisor) and Lavon Ammori (Art Exhibit Organizer). It was held at MONA, the Museum of New Art, an intriguing gallery located in Pontiac, MI. The art exhibit was a collection of ten contemporary Chaldean (Native Iraqi) artists which included pioneer artists Issa Hanna Dabish (1919- Present) and Khuder Jirjees (1938-2006). Others involved were Mazin Eli Al-Sha’awi, Qais Al-Sindy, Lavon Ammori, Paul Batou, Farouk Kaspaules, Sam Selou, Zuhair Shaaouni, Amer Hanna Fatuhi.

People of various ethnicities and age groups – from as young as toddlers to college students and elders – attended the exhibit. I wished I had brought my eighteen month old daughter along, since from this early on I want her to be well connected with her ancestor’s rich heritage. However, I hadn’t expected to see so many mothers with their children. That was a great decision on their part. Especially today, when Chaldeans are facing brutal religious, ethnic and political struggles in their homeland Iraq, it is important that children are taught who the Chaldeans really are and how significant their contributions were, and still are, to our entire society. After all, Chaldeans, the descendants of Abraham, are the founders of the most ancient and sophisticated civilization which dates back to 5300 BC.

While a small number of people know this simple fact, the artists mentioned above, through the combined 30 art works portrayed at the museum, need to be commended for using their creative work to introduce these subjects. Each artist’s beautiful and unique work has its own style and technique and addresses various issues such as landscape, traditional scenes of popular life, love, family, war, exile, and politically or socially motivated themes.

The exhibit was possible thanks to the Chaldean Educational Center of America (CECA), in collaboration with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), Mesopotamia Art History and Beyond (Learning Studio and Art Gallery), IAA (Iraqi Artists Association), MCFS (Michigan Community Financial Services), the Eye Clinic (Dr. Emad Nakkash, MD), and Mr. Tarik Daoud of Al-Long Ford. Jef Bourgeau, who is a visual artist, an instructor at Oakland University and the Director of MONA (www.detroitmona.com), deserves a special appreciation for helping make the exhibit a success.

The outcome at MONA was impressive, and covered by numerous community media such as ICA TV (Iraqi Chaldean American TV), The Middle-East Radio, Tomorrow's Radio, Ishtar Satellite TV, the Chaldean News magazine, and the Chaldean Detroit Times paper. Yet such great artistry needs to draw forth broader media attention in order for more people to understand and appreciate the importance of this particular culture and its current ongoing struggles, especially in Metro-Detroit where over 250,000 Chaldeans reside. Artist and Historian Amer Hanna Fatuhi, the president of CECA and senior art director of Mesopotamia Art Gallery in Ferndale stated, “We hope that in the future the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, who we had invited to this and other prior events, will also attend to honor the diversity of Metro-Detroit.”

With the fast rate the Chaldean community is growing – in all fields, including arts and culture – these artists’ efforts and achievements will surely soon reach people all around the world, thus enriching other communities’ lives as they have done with their own.

Weam Namou-Yatooma,Novelist & Film Maker - IAA President

To Learn more about this exhibition or the artists involved, kindly visit the link below: http://kaldaya.net/2007/9_DailyNews_Sep2007/Sep4_07_E2_IAA.html

You can also contact the supervisor of this exhibit, visual artist and historian Amer Hanna Fatuhi at: www.mesopotamiaartgallery.com