Nazha and the Bell Project

Nazhad brings us to the workplace of a man from the town South from Sulaimany whose mission is to recycle the battlefield waste. His childhood passion to melt metal has been transformed into his profession as an ironmaster utilizing mines, bombs, bullets, parts of military planes and tanks as well as other remnants of the three Iran-Iraq wars as well as both Gulf Wars. The final process of this undertaking is metal bricks, which he sells as a material for further production. He leads us to the world of his work and his life. His activity transforms the utilities of war into utilities of life. His knowledge was growing though years by doing. He has collected a significant body of knowledge both about the metal itself and its military use as well as a place of origin.

The Bell

The work links two places distant from each other by all means - the wasteland in northern Iraq, and the church in Italy - by manufacturing a bell form the displaced war metal waste. This process will include prefabrication of material in Iraq, transportation via land and sea to Italy, bell casting in a foundry in Italy and the display in the church as well as accompanying activities of knowledge production, such as lectures, performances and publication.

The history knows situations, when cannons were made out of the melted church bells in the time of wars, as the access to bronze was limited. The proposal is to make a reverse transformation and bring back to Europe the metal used for making arms and weapons and give it a form of a bell. The deconsecrated Romanesque church of San Matteo now functions as contemporary art space, and has a niche within a facade that was intended for a bell. The oversized sculpture being produced will be too large to be mounted in a facade. The dysfunctional church bell will rest on the adjacent ground, a silent object which can neither call for prayer, nor raise alarm about imminent dangers.

The person, whose history and activity was a trigger for a project is a Kurdish entrepreneur named Najad from a settlement south of Sulaimany. His childhood passion for melting metal became a source of income, the business and mission is to recycle the battlefield waste as a professional ironmaster. It is of a controversial nature as the business that made him a rich man selling metal moulds globally would not be possible without the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88) and both Gulf Wars (1991, 2003).

Najad utilizes mines, bombs, bullets, parts of military planes and tanks as well as other remnants of military operations. The final products of this undertaking are metal bricks, which he sells as a material for further production in places as distant as China. In the accompanying video, he leads us through the world of his work and his life. What unfolds is his practical experience thoughout the years that has accumulated a significant body of knowledge about both the metal itself and the circulation of the original weapons from which it was obtained.

The project involves students from the local university to research with transdisciplinary approach around all issues connected to the project, such as church history, bell-making, transformation of object, reuse of material and many others. This knowledge is meant to be delivered in performative, oral way during exhibition project and finally become a part of the project’s publication.

Written with Aneta Szylak