Saddam Mania is a complex and challenging photo exhibit of images of Iraq’s former leader that carves out new unexplored territory at the intersection of Art and Journalism. Award winning photojournalist Teun Voeten artfully documented posters, statues and murals of Saddam while arriving in Baghdad on April 13th 2003, a few days after the fall of the dictator. According to Voeten “Most of the images which were omnipresent in Baghdad when I arrived were torn down or destroyed and had disappeared in a matter of days after I documented them”.
This series has never been on exhibit before and cannot be seen anywhere else. In these photos-which are in fact images of images-we see Saddam as military hero, Saddam as religious icon, Saddam as fatherly figure. Saddam as triumphant dictator. The images are highly nuanced and have many layers of meaning as we are not just looking at images of images of Saddam but also of the people trying to destroy and deface them.
The bold colors and contextual settings give them a unique graphic quality and seen together, they act as a reminder, perhaps even a warning, to the influence one man had over so many, for so long. The exhibit is curated by Sharoz Makarechi, founder and creative director of Think Tank 3, Modern Day Think-Shop.
According to Makarechi: “Saddam built himself, essentially an imposing brand by commissioning these images and statues—to a level that requires more than taking them down to take his power away from him. The series, perhaps despite itself, demonstrates the disparity between the destruction of reminders of Saddam, and the fact that Saddam is to this day holding his own in court.” For better or for worse these images are now part of our history, as Iraq and The United States have violently collided twice, under father-son Bush Presidencies. This story, his story, is now part of our story too.