190202 mosul museum
A man looks at a displayed sculpture in the museum of Mosul, Iraq The building was recently renovated to host the 29-artist exhibit, titled “Return to Mosul”. Image Credit: AFP

Mosul- Mosul’s celebrated museum has not recovered since Daesh ravaged its ancient treasures several years ago, but part of the complex reopened last week to showcase more contemporary art.

For the first time since Daesh overran the Iraqi city in 2014, visitors could wander the grandiose royal reception hall, which forms part of the museum.

The building is considered the oldest government complex in Mosul and was recently renovated to host the 29-artist exhibit, titled “Return to Mosul,” a member of the organising Al Ghad Radio station told AFP.

The northern Iraqi city served as Daesh’s brutal seat of power for three years, before Iraqi troops recaptured it in 2017.

Much of Mosul’s east has made a modest recovery, but the west - home to the Old City and the museum - remains in ruins.

The exhibit was “proof that war didn’t kill Mosul and that, on the contrary, it’s living a full-on renaissance,” said Huda Hani, a 25-year-old visitor.

Buttoned up in warm jackets, families walked through the hall to look at the paintings and sculptures, many of which feature themes of home, return, or conflict.

The rest of the museum, however, remains closed for security reasons, said its director Zeid Saadallah.

“You have to protect what is left,” he told AFP.

During its bloody reign over Mosul, Daesh released a video of its militants attacking the museum with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills, destroying priceless pre-Islamic artefacts that it considered insulting to religion.

The damaged pieces including two imposing “lamassu” statues, Assyrian winged bulls with human faces.

Daesh also blew up the Assyrian city of Nimrud, the ancient city of Hatra, and the centuries-old desert city of Palmyra in neighbouring Syria.

But in addition to destroying artefacts, Daesh trafficked valuable pieces to finance its activities.

In partnership with Google, 3-D printer BQ, and other organisations, Mosul’s artists and technicians are looking to print three-dimensional versions of the smashed pieces.

And ALIPH, a heritage-focused project led by France and the UAE, has dedicated $480,000 to help in the first phase of the museum’s reconstruction.