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How Is This Art Student Using Clay to Save the Day?

It’s been said that art has the power to change the world.

We can all probably remember a time when we were touched or moved by art, whether it be listening to a song, watching a great TV show or film or reading a really good book.

Art can also be a powerful political tool. Even if it’s simply a symbolic statement of hope. Of a rejection of hate. Of recreation following destruction.

This is just what an amazing 18-year-old man is doing in the Iraqi city of Erbil, to the east of Mosul.

Reflecting on the mindless destruction by Daesh terrorists of world heritage sites in the 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud in 2015, artist Ninos Thabet is recreating them.

Ninos is busy chiselling away at clay in a tiny workspace in Erbil, sculpting miniature replicas of statues that were destroyed.

His work has captured the imagination of a world still in shock at the horrific destruction of a site of precious historical interest.

“Seeing the antiquities of your country, a civilisation that is thousands of years old, destroyed within minutes is very painful,” Ninos told reporters during a visit to his studio. “It was difficult seeing such a setback to our culture and history.”

Daesh planted explosives to destroy vast swathes of what remained of the city, and then took pickaxes to anything left standing. They then circulated video footage showing the destruction in progress.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) described the destruction of Nimrud last year as a “war crime”.

Daesh regards any non-Islamic art or architecture, regardless of its historical importance, as against Islam and therefore to be eradicated. It is a twisted ideology that is reducing heritage sites of enormous importance to rubble.

Ninos’s commitment to his work is inspiring. His project is touching people around the world, giving hope to countless people horrified by the loss of culturally significant art and architecture in Nimrud.

“I wanted to send a message to the world saying, ‘We … want to rebuild our civilisation and to continue to grow artistically,’” he says.

Ninos’s replica statues are being displayed in museums and pop-up exhibits for all to see.

Through art, Ninos has created a symbol of hope for the future. A brighter future of rebuilding, recreating, restoration. It has the power to give back a sense of identity to Iraqis in the face of Daesh’s efforts to eradicate it.

Ninos: we think you’re an inspiration!

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