For the past 30 years, moving freely around Iraq has been particularly difficult, as in all countries living in a state of constant war and conflict. Now the Coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions caused by it have created a new very complex situation. “Walking Arts – Art, Culture & Heritage” was founded with the purpose of overcoming, through artistic languages, all sorts of distances: geographical, identity, relational. On Walking Arts’ journey, we encountered the musical ensemble “Mshakht”, which started as a group of young musicians from Iraqi Kurdistan, and nowadays includes more than a hundred youth from all parts of Iraq. During these times of isolation, Mshakht has continued to play on Instagram.
The events started as little more than an experiment, in a country where Internet connections tend to be very slow: evidence of the geopolitical effects of the digital divide. Yet they have become a mirror of what is behind Mshakht and Walking Arts. The livestreams are an occasion to maintain relationships grounded in collective music performances, workshops, cultural events, and to involve in this journey also the relatives with whom the youths are sharing their household-isolation.
These livestreams have at their core not just music but sharing – musical knowledge, notes, instruments and artistic techniques.
A new Babel of sounds and languages, where the participants speak Arabic, Kurdish, English, and yet are connected through music and the interpersonal connections created.
The livestreams cross formal borders to open shared spaces between people who are geographically distant, but close in their sensitivities, freedom and creativity. As Shamam, founder of Walking Arts, recounts, the origin of Mshakht is itself embedded in the relations among different people, in being hopeless wanderers.
This journey started in Padua (Italy), by chance as most great things happen, in the context of the cooperation project led by the associations Un Ponte Per and Ya Basta Caminantes.
Since the beginning, the relation with the city of Padua has strengthened through the action of Maestro Luca Chiavinato, musician and cofounder of Walking Arts. A relationship which has consolidated and enriched with the production of the CD Walking Sounds, in partnership with New Landscape, and with two tours of the Iraqi musicians in Padua and other cities in Italy.
Livestreams cross the ocean as well, with the participation not only of Iraqi and Italian musicians, but also from the United States. A way to listen to each other and connect with different realities, because being “global” is in the attitude to look at the world to build your surroundings differently.
The livestreams offer a moment of conviviality and fun in hard times, despite the frequent connection issues.
Walking Arts and Mshakht have many initiatives in mind, to build in Iraq, in Italy, and wandering around the world.