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Translation from English


Assyrian Poetry At the British Museum

Dec. 3, 08

(AINA) -- On Saturday 29th November 2008, in front of a crowd of over 40 people in the British Museum in London, UK, the Assyrian poet, Nineb Lamassu thrilled and moved the crowd with four poems recited in the Assyrian language whose translations were read by Fran Hazelton, a professional storyteller and author from Zipang: Modern Mesopotamian Storytellers. The event "Babylon: Poetry and Music" was a fusion of poetry and music as the title of the event suggests and was held within the context of a world renowned Babylon exhibition taking place in the British Museum till March next year.

Within the background of the original bricks of the Babylonian wall leading to Ishtar's Gate behind him, Mr. Lamassu's 4 poems touched upon different aspects of life as an Assyrian growing up in the homeland and eventually being forced to leave, an experience shared by many other Assyrians be they from Iraq or any other country in the Middle East, an experience which he recited in vivid detail in his poem Childhood Biography. Having been forced to flee one's homeland, the next challenge of any individual is to integrate in the new host society, a challenge shared by individuals regardless of ethnic or religious background. In the poem Semi-Island, Mr. Lamassu mixed humor with fact to explain his own experience of integrating in London and its hectic lifestyle and crammed Underground system and how although present in body, his spirit very much still lingers in and longs for the homeland.

In addition to poetry recitals by Mr. Lamassu, the renowned Iraqi musician Ahmed Mukhtar also thrilled the crowd with various compositions using the Oud musical instrument. Given the fact that ancient Babylonian artefacts surrounded the audience, one could have forgotten, and some probably indeed did, that they were in the year 2008 and present in the city of London. In fact, Mr. Mukhtar even made it clear to the audience on numerous occasions that whenever he creates new compositions he always tries to imagine and implement sounds from ancient Babylon itself.

Also scheduled to participate at the event was the esteemed Iraqi poet Nabeel Yasin. Unfortunately however he was not able to leave Iraq due to problems with his flight, but he sent a message assuring all the attendees and organizers of the event that although not present physically, he was very much there in spirit. As if encouraged by his spirit, after a brief exposition of his life story, a poem of his was read at the event to the crowd so as to give them a flavour of his rich talent.

All in all the event was a major success and from an Assyrian perspective it was actually a historic achievement for it was the first time that a member of the Assyrian community in London not only collaborated with the British Museum for this event, but actually participated in it using the ancient Assyrian tongue. When asked about his feelings Mr. Lamassu commented: "I really can't express my feelings, I mean how can one express one's feeling when one as an Assyrian stands here amidst one's own heritage, culture and civilisation and recite poetry in Assyrian for a mostly non-Assyrian audience".

Perhaps it is noteworthy to mention that prior to reciting his poetry, Mr. Lamassu informed the audience that he would like to dedicate the recitation of his poetry on this evening to "Malphono Ninos Aho, one of the great pioneers of Modern Assyrian poetry, a raw model and a dear friend whom has been fighting for his life with a life threatening illness, Malphono Ninos this is for you!".

This event was very much a prelude to the even bigger event scheduled for the 19th February 2009 at the British Museum entitled 'A Taste of Assyria," which will focus on modern Assyrian culture as presented by a number of Assyrian individuals and organizations. For more information about the event visit Taste of Assyria.

Ninos Warda

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