What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization

What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization

In March 2013, The Iraqi and Arab Community Association, led by Executive Director, Iman Shati and Assistant Sarah Ouadghiri collaborated with photographer/writer Jim Lommasson to work with recent Iraqi refugees in the Boston and Lynn, Massachusetts to create a body of artwork that considers what it is to leave one's homeland and come to America. This series is called What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization.

Over four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraqi refugees didn't leave their country to get a better job, or because of a natural disaster, or an act of God. They left because of an act of Man. They left because of a brutal dictator and industrial warfare that has virtually destroyed their country. The long journey from Iraq to the U.S. may take months, sometimes even years, and includes refugee camps, piles of documents and possibly a few bribes. The What We Carried project attempts to personalize this story.

At Lommasson’s request, Iraqi refugees share an item that accompanied them during their immigration to America. He then makes a photograghic print of the item against a clean white background. Lommasson then returns this austere print to his collaborator, and invites them to contextualize it. The participant’s writings render the images powerful, vulnerable, and breathtakingly individual. The pictures and the writing speaks to what was carried, and more import, to what was left behind. What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization is about our mutual history.


"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You'll own it all."
–General Colin Powell to President George Bush before invading Iraq in 2003.



Jim Lommasson is a recipient of the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.


What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization
was funded in part by The Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).