The Nahrein Network


Thesiger's Tarada

Thesiger's Tarada: Using art to reconnect the archival, local, and archaeological strata of memory of Iraq's vernacular watercraft heritage

Directed by Rashad Salim of Safina Projects with partners at the Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford), Basrah Museum, and Nature Iraq

Led by renowned Iraqi artist Rashad Salim, this project examines the relationship between recent Iraqi marshland boats like the tarada canoe made for Wilfrid Thesiger in 1952 and ancient boats of comparable form, known from the archaeological record. Current and recent information about Iraq’s marsh canoes—gathered through oral history work with today's marsh communities, as well as exploring Thesiger's archive—will be analysed together with available archaeological data on similar boats, aiming to shed new light on the development of a boat form and craft tradition that endured for millennia but is now endangered. Through recreation of the tarada canoe, the project aims to engage with audiences through water-based "art actions" in both Iraq and the UK and to sustain traditional craft practices into the future, through developing new uses for traditional boats in the tourism, leisure, and sports sectors in Iraq.