Sama Alshaibi, Sadik Alfraji, and Huma Gupta

Part of the MIT Fall 2023 Architecture Lecture Series. In collaboration with the Aga Khan Program and the Art, Culture, and Technology program. 

ONLINE Webcast:

6:00 PM

Sama Alshaibi, Sadik Alfraji, and Huma Gupta

From the Great Flood to the Great Migration

Internationally renowned Iraqi artists Sama Alshaibi (b. 1973, Iraq) and Sadik Kwaish Alfraji (b. 1960, Iraq) will be in conversation with Dr. Huma Gupta on Thursday, October 26th at 6pm in the Long Lounge to discuss their respective artistic practices as they relate to the deep histories and projected futures of environmental change, population displacement, and climate crises across Iraq. Today, Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country to extreme temperatures, water scarcity, and food shortages. Iraq’s Water Resources Ministry recently projected that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will run dry making Iraq "a land without rivers" by 2040 due to the confluence of upstream dams, resource mismanagement, and effects of climate change. This panel discussion deals with the transhistorical themes raised by the exhibition Iraq: Beyond the Two Rivers (Currently on view in Keller Gallery until Nov 3). Panelists discuss these themes through Alshaibi's Iihya’ (Revival, 2023) video art piece and Alfraji's Those House Beyond the Army Canal (2022) animation in conversation with Dr. Gupta's long-term research on Iraq and book project The Architecture of Dispossession

Iraq: Beyond the Two Rivers engages with the deeper histories of al-Iraq – a place known by many names such as Sumer, Mesopotamia ‘land between rivers,’ cradle of civilization, site of the great flood, or even the garden of eden. At the heart of its civilizational lore stand two great rivers – Tigris & Euphrates. Their alluvial plains and convergence open to thousands of miles of marshlands abundant with reed, clay, flora, fauna, and trade routes to the Indian ocean, which over 7,000 years ago facilitated early experiments in city-making. However, rapid urbanization and construction of monumental structures like Ziggurats also gave rise to cautionary tales of Great Floods and mass deforestation leading to the near demise of humanity in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Humanity is faced with a similar predicament today, so this discussions considers other models of care, craft, dwelling, and inter-species kinship in the marshes of Iraq that might inspire us once again to reimagine our interconnected worlds.


Iraki-Dutch Multimedia artist Sadik Alfraji works in drawing, painting, print, photograph, sculpture, video and animation. He pursues his art profession depending on the expressionistic intensity of the graphic and focusing on the concepts of the existence. 

He mostly works in black and white and with personal source material investigating anxiety, loss, fragmentation, and lapses in time that underline exile.

His work has been presented in numerous solos and group exhibitions in several art venues such as: MoMa PS1, QAGOMA, Queensland Art Gallery; British Museum; 56th and 57th Venice Biennale; Videobrasil; Mori Art Museum; LACMA Museum, LA. USA; Busan Museum of Art; Red Star Line Museum; Stijdelijk Museum Amsterdam; Kunsthal KAdE, NL; MAMA Museum, Algiers; Station Museum, Houston; MAMBA Museum, Buenos Aires; CCPLM, Centro Cultural La Moneda, Chile, and many others.

His works are housed in collections such as Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The British Museum, UK; Museum Flehite, NL; MFAH, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; LACMA, Los Angeles Country Museum; MATHAF, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar; Barjeel Art Foundation, UAE; Cluj-Napoca Art Museum, Romania; Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Russia; Shoman Foundation Amman, Jordan; French cultural center, Amman, Jordan; National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan; The Art Center, Baghdad; The National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; etc. He works and lives in The Netherlands.

Sama Alshaibi (b. 1973, Iraq) is an artist based in the United States and working between photography, video, and installation. Her practice explores the notion of aftermath—the fragmentation and dispossession that violates the individual and a community following the destruction of their social, natural, and built environment. In her photographs and videos, Alshaibi often uses her own body as both subject and medium, a staging site for encounters, peripheries, and refuge, even when carrying the markings of war and dislocation. Her work complicates the coding of the Arab female figure found in the image history of photographs and moving images. 

Alshaibi was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2021 and received the Arlene and Morton Scult Artist Award from the Phoenix Art Museum. Her work has been exhibited in numerous biennales and museums, including the 55th Venice Biennale, the 2020 State of the Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the 13th Cairo Biennale, Barjeel Foundation, Royal Ontario Museum, Arab American National Museum, among others. Aperture published her monograph Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In, featuring the artist’s Silsila series. Alshaibi is a Regents Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at the University of Arizona.

Lectures are free and open to the public. Lectures will be held Thursdays at 6 PM ET in 7-429 (Long Lounge) and streamed online unless otherwise noted. Registration required to attend in-person. Register here or watch the webcast on Youtube.