An Ocean of Paper seeks to stimulate new research in the social history of the Sultanate by collecting, cataloging, and publishing the thousands of deeds (called waraqas) produced by Omanis in South Arabia and East Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These deeds, which exist in private and public collections in Oman and East Africa, recount transactions in money, property, and commodities between Omanis from different parts of the country who engaged in activities around the Indian Ocean. Individually, they tell stories of the lives, fortunes, and trajectories of Omani migrants; together, they constitute some of the richest written records we have on any community in the region, and promise to completely reshape the foundations of Omani social and economic history in the Indian Ocean.
Kamil Chadirji (1897-1968), born to an influential Baghdad family, played a central role in the political life of lraq as founder and President of the National Democratic Party. His position allowed him unique opportunities to take photographs throughout Iraq. Kamil’s son, Rifat Chadirji (b. 1926), perhaps better known as one of the most influential Iraqi architects of the 20th century, was also an accomplished photographer, author, teacher, and critic (through the generosity of Rifat and Balkis Chadirji, AKDC@MITalso houses the Rifat Chadirji Architecture Archive). Together, their vast collection spans more than 5 decades and contains ca. 100,000 negatives and images documenting the Middle East, primarily Iraq.
The collection illustrates daily life, cultural engagement, and social conditions in the Middle East from the 1920s – 1970s. This important record also provides a unique look at the significant transformation of Baghdad’s built environment over time.
Once on loan to the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon), the entire collection has been given to the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT through a gift from the Chadirji family. In 2016, while on loan to the Arab Image Foundation and with a grant from the Graham Foundation, the photography of Rifat Chadirji, in particular, was highlighted in an exhibition entitled, Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation. Although the material now belongs to AKDC@MIT, the exhibition remains on tour and will open in Los Angeles, CA early January 2018, before returning to MIT.
As with all archives given to AKDC@MIT, the collection will be catalogued, digitized, and made available to scholars, students, and research via AKDC’s research portal, Archnet, or in person at the Center. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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