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For almost 3,000 years, the city of Nineveh, near Mosul in modern-day Iraq, was protected by a 30-tonne, 4.5m-high stone lamassu stationed at its gates. The Assyrian deity takes the form of a winged bull (at other times a lion) with a human head. In 2015 members of IS used a pneumatic drill to gouge out its eyes and subsequently destroyed the city’s ancient guardian. Then, in March 2018, the lamassu reappeared. This time beneath Admiral Nelson’s watchful eye in London’s Trafalgar Square. And with reincarnation came reinvention: what once was stone is now constituted of 10,500 cans formerly containing Iraqi date syrup.

This public art commission, located on the square’s Fourth Plinth, is a work by American artist Michael Rakowitz, who has mined the Iraqi heritage of his grand- parents, who left the country during the 1940s, in a number of open-ended projects. One of these, The invisible enemy should not exist (2007–; the title translates names of the ancient Babylonian processional way through the Ishtar Gate), involves the mammoth task of reimagining looted or destroyed Iraqi antiquities using food packaging available in Middle Eastern food shops in the West. With over 7,000 artefacts registered as lost, he has a long way to go.

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