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Edmund de Waal donates library of exile to Mosul following exhibition at the British Museum
Edmund de Waal library of exile at the British Museum 2020 © The Trustees of the British Museum.

LONDON.- Following presentations in Venice, Dresden, and London, British artist and author Edmund de Waal will donate almost 2,000 books from his acclaimed installation library of exile to the Mosul University Library in Iraq to help rebuild its collection which was almost destroyed in 2015 by the group calling itself the Islamic State.

The Mosul University Library will be the final home for the library’s collection recently on display at the British Museum, and features the work of writers from over a hundred countries in dozens of languages from antiquity to the present day by over 100 writers from across the world who have experienced exile, loss and displacement. The books will be transported to Mosul with the kind participation of Book Aid International, the UK’s leading book donation and library development charity and the Iraqi Embassy in London.

On Friday 29th January, 6pm the British Museum will host ‘A Space to be’, a free evening of readings and musical performances inspired by the library of exile, hosted by composer and presenter Soumik Datta and featuring original musical responses created by singer-songwriter Amahla, rubab virtuoso Shaphwat Simab, and Tasmanian-British saxophonist Yasmin Ogilvie, with readings by Edmund de Waal, Hartwig Fischer and other acclaimed writers.

Following its presentation at the British Museum, the external walls of the library of exile - painted with liquid porcelain and inscribed with the names of the great lost libraries of the world - are being gifted to The Warburg Institute, London, by the artist and will be incorporated into the institute’s redesign, due to be completed in 2023/24. Its Director, Professor Bill Sherman, said: ‘We are honoured and moved by Edmund’s gift. It will put his library of exile into one of the world’s great exiled libraries; and it will become a visible part of the Warburg Renaissance, a building project that will create new possibilities for artistic partnership and public engagement.’

library of exile is a temporary pavilion designed as a place of contemplation and dialogue, where visitors are encouraged to sit and read the books almost all of which are in translation, exploring the idea of language as migration - from Ovid, Tacitus and Voltaire to the German children’s writer Judith Kerr. It was first unveiled during the Venice Biennale in 2019 at the 16th century Ateneo Veneto (May – September 2019), before travelling to the Japanisches Palais, Dresden (November 2019 – February 2020) and The British Museum, London (March 2020 – January 2021).

The library of exile online catalogue can be explored here.

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