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Issam Kourbaj: Urgent Archive

March 1 - May 26

Issam Kourbaj: Urgent Archive

Urgent Archive is the largest art solo exhibition by Cambridge-based artist Issam Kourbaj who was born in Syria in 1963. Kourbaj has been chronicling the conflict in his native country for 13 years. 

Urgent Archive

The exhibition explores themes such as displacement, destruction and shelter, and includes new work by Kourbaj including paintings, film and sculpture. The exhibition coincides with the 13th anniversary of the March 2011 Syrian Uprising. Much of his work involves collecting and repurposing materials to understand better traumatic events.

Urgent Archive comprises of a combined display of performance, video and experimental sculpture. Works will continue to develop through the exhibition exploring the concept that just like the conflict in Syrian, the artist’s work is ongoing.

Dark Water, Burning World features a selection of small boats made from recycled bicycle mud-guards, with burnt matches stood up in them as if refugee boat people.

Issam Kourbaj, Dark Water, Burning World, 2016, Selection of small boats, made from recycled bicycle mud-guards, packed with upright burnt matches.  Photo: This Is Photography. Courtesy the artist.
Issam Kourbaj, Dark Water, Burning World, 2016. Photo: This Is Photography. Courtesy the artist.

Seeds represent a constant theme through the exhibition. The artist will grow Syrian wheat from seed outside the gallery. The wheat will be harvested and made into bread demonstrating refugees ability to adapt to new circumstances.

Issam Kourbaj: Urgent Archive is curated by Guy Haywood and Amy Tobin.

Issam Kourbaj

The artist was born in Syria and trained at art schools in Damascus, St Petersburg and Wimbledon. He has lived in Cambridge since 1990 and is artist-in-residence at Christ’s College, where he also lectures.

Urgent Archive by Issam Kourbaj

The exhibition will be on display at Kettle’s Yard from 1 March to 26 May 2024. For more information visit:


Entrance to the exhibition is free but you have to buy a ticket to Kettle’s Yard House (£10.50, free for under25s, etc.).

Getting to Cambridge from London

Trains run from London Liverpool Street to Cambridge taking approximately one hour.

Main image: Issam Kourbaj, Defaced Intermediate Historical Atlas, 2019. Photo: This Is Photography. Courtesy the artist. 



March 1
May 26
Event Category:


Kettle’s Yard
University of Cambridge Castle Street
Cambridge,United Kingdom
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