‘Dar Al Sulh, or Domain of Conciliation, is a territory where an agreement between Muslims and non-Muslims has been made and provides freedom of religion, autonomy, and protection, sometimes in exchange for jizya, a tribute tax. It is this societal division to which Jews belonged in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East.’
For one week Michael Rakowitz’s ‘Dar Al Sulh’ served recipes that had been preserved by artist’ Iraqi Jewish grandmother, whose ingredients and combinations were specific to the Jewish population and are no longer served in Iraq today. It was the first such ‘restaurant’ in the Arab World to serve the cuisine of Iraqi Jews since their exodus, which began in the 1940s. In it food was served on plates and trays that originally belonged to members of this ancient community and which survived the departure of their homeland. As the artist describes…
‘Jews were once Arabs, too. Their exodus from Arab lands is one that has been propagandized and mythologized by Israel, by the flawed narrative of Zionism, and by other entities in order to bolster specific cultural and political positions. Dar Al Sulh seeks to be a time machine, to reactivate a space when there was harmony, when Jews had not yet abandoned their Arab selves, before Jewish populations in the Arab world were assumed to be complicit with Zionism. The notion of conciliation is the central philosophy of Dar Al Sulh, meant to be reflected in the food and the conversations spoken around it.’
Dinner was served each night in correspondence with seven themed conversations in the presence of the artist. The ‘restaurant’ also hosted Tuning Baghdad, which provided a soundtrack for the dining experience. A project initiated by independent curator Regine Basha, Tuning Baghdad brings together a growing archive of rare video footage, audio clips, and historical information on Iraqi-Jewish musicians and the music scene that was displaced from Baghdad in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including Basha’s father, an avid oud player.
Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is an artist living and working in Chicago. He received his MSc in Visual Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge and his BA in Fine Arts from Purchase College SUNY, Purchase. Selected solo exhibitions include Galerie Wien Lukatsch, Berlin, 2016; Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, 2016; MoMA, New York, 2015; Traffic, Dubai, 2015; The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 2014; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, 2014; Lombard Freid Projects, New York, 2012; Park Avenue Restaurant, Creative Time, New York, 2011; Tate Modern, London, 2010. Recent group presentations and screenings include 14th Istanbul Biennial, 2015; Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, 2015; Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina, 2015; Sullivan Galleries, SAIC, 2014; Yokohama Triennial, 2014; Gennadius Library, Athens (curated by Iwona Blazwick and Whitechapel Gallery), 2014; Delfina Foundation, London, 2014; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2014; dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, 2012. Rakowitz was awarded grants by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Philadelphia and Graham Foundation, Chicago in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Zurich Art Prize in 2014.