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Mavericks Personified: Nada Shabout
Search and rescue

Nada Shabout
Photo: Flossie Barnes, UNT

Alumna Nada Shabout discovered some nonhuman casualties of the Iraq war: works of art.

More than 3,000 of 5,000-8,000 paintings, prints and sculptures remain missing after American troops left the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art unprotected after the invasion. Dr. Shabout, a University of North Texas assistant professor and specialist in modern Iraqi art, began a search for the missing treasures.

“I went to Iraq right after the invasion in 2003 with some other academics to see what happened to the arts,” she said. “We found the museum had been looted and burned. About 1,300 pieces of art were recovered, but most are in very bad shape.”

When she contacted Interpol about the missing art, she learned that no one was looking for it. To do that, archival listings would be necessary, and those were missing as well.

Shabout, who earned four degrees at UT Arlington, recently received a $10,000 grant from the American Academic Research Institute to construct a list of the missing art. She will spend her summer interviewing artists, searching through Iraq and, hopefully, finding some of the missing items.

Her concern stems from her heritage and her love for art. Shabout’s father is an Iraqi native, her mother a Palestinian. The world incorrectly equates Iraqi art with ancient art, she said. Dispelling those myths has become a quest, and finding the missing art will help her achieve it.

“It is my responsibility, my duty, to look into and for the modern art of Iraq,” she said.

— Kim Pewitt-Jones

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