Wafaa Bilal’s 168:01 exhibition, now on display at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, provides an insight into the cultural loss that occurred during the Iraq War and provides people a chance to help with the rebuild. People are encouraged to contribute books from a set list that are being sent to the University of Baghdad’s Library.
Empty, white tomes
The 168:01 exhibition includes bookshelves filled with empty, white tomes, or shells of books. These symbolize the loss that took place, as well as the rebirth. Included is a specific wish list of books, such as educational texts, which would replace what was lost from the collection of the university’s Fine Arts department. Members of the public are asked to either donate money to buy a book from the list, drop off a new or used book, or order one directly from Amazon. If someone drops off a text or makes a donation, they can exchange their contribution for one of the white tomes off the shelf. The hope is that, over time, all of the white shells will be replaced by these donated books.
Kate Sharpley is the Gallery’s visual arts educator and has been coordinating this unique project’s integration at the Centre.
“If you can imagine going into your local library and not having access to books or access to that information, how would that make you feel?” she offers. “This exhibition raises the awareness of a place in our world that has lost that access, and in some small way that Canadians can help, I think that’s really important.”
Islanders contribute to library
So far, there have been six books and four cash donations contributed to this exhibition. Some local bookstores, such as the Bookmark in Charlottetown, have offered to help order in these educational texts.
Once Wafaa Bilal’s exhibition closes on January 20, all of the books will be gathered and sent to Baghdad. If you or your organization are interested in donating books, contact the Art Gallery’s Tamara Steele at (902) 628-6111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.