Following ISIS’ expulsion from Mosul, the city has begun to experience an artistic revival. Mosul has always been a culturally and artistically rich city, and host to about 10 concert halls. However, ISIS actively restricted and banned nearly all forms of artistic expression. Despite all the challenges and amid the widespread destruction caused by ISIS and a 9 month military campaign on the city, a thriving artistic and cultural scene has begun to emerge.
Many artistic modes of expression such as painting, music and theatre that were either banned under the rule of the militant extremists or embedded and instrumentalised into the group’s propaganda structure are now being openly practiced by the people of Mosul following the group’s demise. Under ISIS, artists and musicians were notoriously hunted down by the group in their attempt to purge the city of its cultural heritage. Now artists are coming out in full force to use their skills to celebrate the group’s disintegration.
After years of oppression and terror, Iraqis from the areas recently liberated by Iraqi forces have become galvanised to counter ISIS’ nihilistic, genocidal propaganda and narrative with with their own, forward-looking vision of a united and inclusive country and community. This has been evident in Mosul and all across Iraq.
Since liberation, many volunteers have come forward, out of their own goodwill to remove ISIS’ propaganda from the walls of their city and replace them with paintings celebrating Iraqi unity as well as Iraq’s victory over the terrorist group.
For many Iraqis, arts and culture represent more than an avenue for entertainment and political discourse. They represent a way to deal with the traumas of the pasts. People who have lived under and witnessed the brutality of ISIS have begun to use their talents to portray the cruelties inflicted upon ordinary people.