Iraqi art in Minneapolis


In 2004, Sami Rasouli returned home to Najaf, Iraq. Rasouli, a longtime owner of Sinbad’s restaurant on Nicollet Avenue, was heartbroken about the war and wanted to find a way to help.

Back in Iraq, Rasouli established the Muslim Peacemakers Team (MPT) in 2005. The organization, which consists of Shia, Sunni, and Kurds, aims to promote unity and peace for the good of their communities.

“My journey back to Iraq to establish MPT was an attempt to bring better understanding, mutual trust, respect and adopting the nonviolence culture for both homes of mine, since I speak both languages and understand both cultures,” Rasouli said.

In the winter of 2005, Rasouli planned a return to the United States to discuss his current work involving the MPT but was approached by Iraqi artists from Karbala and Najaf. The professional artists ask him to sell their works to raise money for their families. Now in 2007, Rasouli has brought artwork back on three different occasions to fill the requests of the artists in need. “Art from Inside Iraq: Watercolors and Oils,” is a showing that features the artwork done by local Iraqi artists in order to promote nonviolence.

The show will be held until Oct. 1 at Dunn Brothers Coffee Shop at 34th and Hennepin Avenue. All proceeds from sales are shared by the artists’ families and the MPT.

Photo above is of a painting by an artist named Essam Abdu-Elah Sahib. The painting is untitled. Photo below is of a painting by an artist named Haider Talib Al-Wazni. The painting is titled “The Righteous Prayer: ‘Oh God, let us have more children to be your servants.’” Photos by Ryan Zickermann.

Along with raising money, the goal of the show is to expose Americans to the art, said Kathy McKay, a volunteer for the Iraq/Minnesota Art Project. The art is a different view from inside Iraq, as opposed to what is shown on the news, McKay said.

“The Iraqi art project idea is a unique concept in its approach to the American society who is tired of the violent news they receive daily from Iraq,” Rasouli said.

Since the beginning of the war on Iraq, Rasouli feels that an average American is interested to learn about the ancient culture of Mesopotamia before the war, during the war, and after. Because of this, people are ready to be informed on the culture Iraq has to offer, including its art.

“American people are culturally open by their nature to the many different faces of art in which are expressed,” Rasouli said.

Each year Rasouli brings an average of 80 pieces of artwork. Pieces run from $125-$500. In the three years of the project, about 60 to 70 pieces have been sold, McKay said. Some of the artwork is also being made into posters and cards with a more affordable cost for supporters. Donations are accepted, too.

Besides the art show, MPT is involved with Letters for Peace. This project sends 1000 letters back to Iraq from school children in the United States. For more information regarding Letters for Peace go to

For more information on Muslim Peacemaker Teams, go to