On March 5th, 2007, a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Al-Mutanabbi Street is located in a mixed Shia-Sunni area. More than 30 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, holds bookstores and outdoor bookstalls, cafes, stationery shops, and even tea and tobacco shops. It has been the longstanding heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community for centuries. In response to the attack, a San Francisco bookseller, Beau Beausoleil, rallied a community of international artists and writers to produce a collection of letterpress-printed broadsides (poster-like works on paper), artists’ books (unique works of art in book form), and an anthology of writing, all focused on expressing solidarity with Iraqi booksellers, writers and readers. The coalition of contributing artists calls itself Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition.
This collection supports and promotes awareness to the important mission and framework of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition’s focus on the lasting power of the written word and the arts in support of the free expression of ideas, the preservation of shared cultural spaces, and the importance of responding to attacks, both overt and subtle, on artists, writers, and academics working under oppressive regimes or in zones of conflict despite the destruction of that literary/cultural content.