The Italian Ambassador to Iraq Maurizio Greganti inaugurated the plaque at the Basra Museum in memory of Italy's donation to the Government and the Iraqi people of the reproduction of the "Bull of Nimrud", a jewel of Assyrian art destroyed by the iconoclastic fury of the Isis-Daesh in 2015.
The inaugural ceremony was attended by numerous Iraqi authorities, including the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Ahmed Fakak al Badrani, the Director of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Ali Shalgham, and the Director of the Museum, Mustafa Jasim Al-Husseini, who celebrated this occasion as a happy stage in the reconstruction of the country's cultural heritage and a moral victory over the iconoclastic fury of Daesh in 2015.
Ambassador Greganti expressed profound admiration for the immense Iraqi artistic and cultural heritage, confirming Italy's ongoing commitment to preserving and making accessible this exceptional heritage, in the wake of a tradition now consolidated thanks to the extraordinary work of many experts as well as of the numerous Italian archaeological missions active in the country, now numbering more than twenty.
The Ambassador expressed profound thanks to the "Associazione Incontro di Civiltà" of President Francesco Rutelli who, with the financial support of the Terzo Pilastro Foundation -- Italy and the Mediterranean, promoted and coordinated the precious and tenacious work carried out for the reproduction of the statue of the "Lamassu" -- the winged androcephalic bull of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, placed to protect the palace of Ashurnasirpal II (9th century BC) and destroyed by Daesh in 2015. The work, reproduced on a 1:1 scale by a team of Italian restorers under the guidance of Nicola Salvioli of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence and with the scientific supervision of Prof. Davide Nadali of the Sapienza University of Rome, was created on the occasion of the exhibition "Reborn from destruction. Ebla, Nimrud, Palmira" promoted and curated by the Incontro di Civiltà Association. At the end of the exhibition, the bull landed at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, becoming a symbol of the #Unite4Heritage action, before reaching its final destination in Basra.
"Here is a light -- says Francesco Rutelli, President of the Incontro di Civiltà Association -, a precious Italian light. These images present a small miracle of Italian Soft Power, of our Cultural Diplomacy. In Basra, Iraq, a work that I have and we strongly wanted is inaugurated: the reconstruction of the Bull of Nimrud, destroyed by the iconoclastic terrorism of ISIS-DAESH in 2015, in what was the Assyrian capital of King Ashurnasirpal II three thousand years ago . Thanks to a magnificent team effort: the Incontro di Civiltà Association, the Terzo Pilastro Italia e Mediterraneo Foundation chaired by Emmanuele FM Emanuele, the archaeologists of Paolo Matthiae's school -- with Davide Nadali -, the restoration and technology company led by Nicola Salvioli, the Priority Culture Association. President Sergio Mattarella accepted my invitation to inaugurate the first exhibition inside the Colosseum, in October 2016, together with the then Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni; then, we presented this work in 2017 at the entrance to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Now the work is completed, with the return of the great Lamassu to his homeland, after a complicated journey and thanks to the commitment of the Italian Ambassador Maurizio Greganti, in the presence of the Iraqi Minister of Culture and the Governor of Basra, and with the messages best wishes from the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani and of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano. The destroyed sculpture, which was on the facade of the large throne room of the royal palace, comes back to life at the entrance to the Museum of Basra, one of the key cities in the Region, near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. From the observation of photos and drawings, a three-dimensional computerized model was created in Italy, in the identical shape of the destroyed original: instead of the theft that has dominated for centuries, here we are faced with a case of "return to homeland". Italy fights to protect the Cultural Heritage, against any destruction, to regain value and respect for History, for the pluralism of ideas. This symbolic achievement -- accomplished with only private resources and constant volunteer action -- demonstrates the strength of Italian thought and capabilities. I hope that this little light will serve to give hope in these difficult times."
"I would like to express to you -- said the Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano -- my closeness on a symbolic day for the friendship between Italy and Iraq and for the common commitment in the protection and valorization of the classical cultural heritage against every threat and barbarism of our era. The DAESH/ISIS terrorist network has caused much suffering to the Iraqi people and has defaced many signs of its glorious past. I am proud that two Italian private bodies, the Associazione Incontro di Civiltà of President Francesco Rutelli and the Terzo Pilastro Foundation -- Internazionale, have taken it upon themselves to return to the community one of the best-known symbols of ancient Iraqi civilisation, the Bull of Nimrud. Italy is at the forefront in safeguarding cultural heritage because it is the soul of a nation and embodies its history. History is not destroyed or erased, but is studied and preserved for subsequent generations. It will therefore continue to make its utmost efforts to advance international collaboration in the field of protection of cultural heritage and to work for a more effective valorization of humanity's heritage, as reiterated in the recent UNESCO Conference in Naples. I take this opportunity to greet the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Fakak al Badrani, the Governor of Basra, Asaad al Eidani and all the personalities present at the ceremony, with the hope of soon having other opportunities to strengthen the solid cultural relations between Italy and Iraq"
"I would like -- states in his message the Vice President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani -- to extend a warm greeting to the Minister of Culture Ahmed Fakak al Badrani and to all the Authorities present, and to congratulate them on this important day which celebrates the friendship between our countries. Italy and Iraq are united by a friendship that has solid and deep roots, and by the common experience of a cultural heritage that spans millennia of history. Unfortunately, Iraq's cultural heritage has been difficult to safeguard in recent decades. Daesh's dramatic experience left terror and destruction in its wake. The archaeological site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, devastated by the iconoclastic fury of terrorism, is a sad witness of this. However, in memory of the victims who paid for extremist violence with their blood, today's ceremony is a new sign of the victory achieved over those who would have wanted to erase the memory of a past that is the common heritage of our civilization. The unveiling of the plaque commemorating the Italian donation to the Iraqi Government of the reproduction of the statue of the Bull of Nimrud represents a further important stage in the reconstruction of Iraq. It is also a concrete manifestation of Italy's constant commitment alongside Iraq and, in particular, the protection of its priceless artistic and cultural heritage. I thank the Incontro di Civiltà Association, which conceived and conducted the initiative with the support of the Terzo Pilastro Italia -- Mediterranean Foundation and the technical-scientific supervision of the Department of Ancient Sciences
of the Sapienza University of Rome and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence, Italian excellences in the sector of recovery and valorisation of cultural heritage who we are proud to have collaborated in such a fruitful manner in this extraordinary result. The work, testimony to the extraordinary quality of the workers and Italian know-how, can be enjoyed today as a gift from Italy to the friendly Iraqi people in the evocative setting of the Basra Museum, which I hope to soon be able to visit in person. Long live the friendship between Italy and Iraq!".