Artist in Residence, 2024-25

March 4, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

We are delighted to announce that the 2024-25 Artist in Residence at the Jackman Humanities Institute will be Tamara Abdul-Hadi, in partnership with multiple units at UTSC. She will participate in the Circle of Fellows during our annual theme, Undergrounds/Underworlds.

Tamara Abdul Hadi is an Iraqi photographer whose work is concerned with the historic and contemporary representation of her own culture, in its diversity. She has published and exhibited work across the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Her photography and commentary focus on the dispossessed and marginalized, the underside of Orientalist representations, the underground of settler societies, the underworld of war. She has photographed African asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv, the denizens of cemeteries in Cairo, the crumpled remains of weapons in Kurdistan, undocumented workers in Montreal, and barbershops in Gaza. Her first photobook, Picture an Arab Man, which reframes and reimagines a much-maligned demographic through close, intimate portraits, was published last year. She is a widely sought after commenter on the ethics of photography, gender and masculinity, and the changing social and environmental landscapes of the Middle East.

Fellowship Project: Reimagining Return to the Marshes

Return to the Marshes, a 1977 photo-book by British photojournalists Gavin Young and Nik Wheeler, evocatively etched an image of the Southern Iraqi Marshes (Al Ahwar, a wetland area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) as the other of Baghdad, Iraq’s capital. Armed with memories of T.E. Lawrence and Gertude Bell’s Mesopotamia, the photographers transposed the imperial camera of the nineteenth century onto the disappearing landscape of Ba’athist Iraq. The marshes’ fate was tied to the efforts to make Iraq modern, to control its rivers, power its cities, and industrialize its agriculture. Indelibly transformed by migration and environmental degradation, Young and Wheeler’s marshes have circulated widely among a nostalgic Iraqi diaspora. In this proposed project, Re-Imagining Return to the Marshes, acclaimed Iraqi-Canadian photographer and educator, Tamara Abdul-Hadi, is revisiting and photographing the Southern Iraqi Marshes anew to ask, “can histories be colonized even in imagination?” Through her own photographs and research into the genesis and proliferation of imperial images of the marshes, Abdul-Hadi’s project advances a decolonial visuality that speaks to current, transdisciplinary debates about environmental transformations in the wake of modern colonial projects of statecraft, industrialization, and urbanization.

The JHI Artist in Residence is a partnership between the Jackman Humanities Institute and a different unit each year. This collaboration reaches across multiple units at UTSC including Historical and Cultural Studies, where the residency will be hosted, Arts Culture and Media, where the artist will teach, and the Doris McCarthy Gallery where she will display her work. She will engage in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary conversations on decolonizing curricula fostering more inclusive classrooms and will also attend weekly fellows research meetings and hold an office at the JHI.