Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun
Artist Wafaa Bilal talks about growing up in Iraq under rule of Saddam Hussein, his decision to move to the United States, and the killing of his brother by a missle fired from a U.S. military drone in 2004. In reaction to his brother's death, Mr. Bilal created an interactive, month-long exhibit in Chicago which allowed people from around the world, through a website, to shoot paintballs at him twenty-four hours a day. By the time the exhibit ended, Bilal had been shot at over 60,000 times from people in over 130 countries. He spoke at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC.
Artist Story: Wafaa Bilal
How did political oppression impact your art practice?
I was born in Iraq on June 10, 1966. Because a member of my family had been accused of disloyalty to my country, I was denied the opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. Instead, I was to attend college to major in geography. While in college, I continued to pursue my art and was arrested for my political artwork against Sadaam Hussein. Shortly after the Gulf War, I was inspired by President Bush's message to the Iraqi citizens that if they attempted to overthrow Sadaam, the U.S. would stand behind them. I became involved in organizing opposition to the government and was scheduled for arrest and execution when I escaped into Kuwait. There I was accused of being a spy and was close to being shot when my student ID convinced them I told the truth. I was sent to a refugee camp on the Kuwaiti border and lived there for forty days.