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Wafaa Bilal: 168:01

January 30, 2016 - April 10, 2016

AWE Gallery

Wafaa Bilal, Dark Palace, 2003-13, archival inkjet photograph on paper, edition of 5, 127.0 cm x 102.0 cm, Gift of Dr. John Driscoll, 2019

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad lost their entire library from looters who set fire to the collection. More than 70,000 books were reduced to ashes. Over thirteen years later, students at the college still have few books from which to study. 

In 168:01, Bilal has constructed an austere library containing 1,000 empty white books. The white library serves as both a monument to the staggering cultural losses endured throughout Iraq’s history as well as a platform for its rebirth. Aimed at restoring the college’s lost archives, 168:01 positions viewers as potential participants whose contributions fund educational texts from a wish list compiled by students and faculty. As the installation accrues donations, the blank books are replaced with new ones and the library’s shelves become saturated with knowledge and vibrancy. Select donors receive these books in return for their contribution and as a symbol of the void they have helped to rectify. At the end of the exhibition, all donated texts will be shipped to Baghdad. In this way, the white library activates a system of exchange connecting its visitors in Canada and beyond to the College of Fine Arts in Iraq.

Iraq has a long history of cultural destruction. During the Islamic Golden Age in the 13th century, an invading Mongol army set fire to all the libraries of Baghdad, including the famed House of Wisdom, or Bayt al-Hikma. Legend describes the invaders throwing the Bayt al-Hikma’s library into the Tigris River, creating a bridge of books for their army to cross. The pages bled ink into the river for seven days, at the end of which the books were drained of knowledge. For Bilal, 168:01 refers to the first moment when grief is transformed into a call to action, signaling the struggle to move forward from the ashes of ruin.

Wafaa Bilal’s installation 168:01 was conceptualized and produced for his major solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor. We thank all those who participated in the KICKSTARTER campaign! Please note that the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Esker Foundation are unable to provide tax receipts for donations to the 168:01 project. 

This exhibition will travel to the Esker Foundation, Calgary, Alberta for exhibition May 28 through August 28, 2016.

To Participate in 168:01 as a book donor, please follow the instructions below for more advice on purchasing from  

  1. Visit the Wishlist:
  2. Add books to your cart (see below for tips)
  3. Check out when you’re ready
  4. Select Shauna Thompson 168:01, Calgary, Alberta as your shipping address
  5. Enter your payment

Guidance for Purchasing:

The shopping list has been set up on in order to minimize shipping and customs duties. Also, each item should be sent directly to the Esker Foundation.

If you are purchasing from directly, our advice is to purchase the cheapest “new” version you can find. Paperbook is generally preferable over hard cover; however, for a book that is likely to get a lot of wear, the purchaser should buy hardcover. Also, for many books which are older, hardcover is generally cheaper than paperback. Use your judgment about whether the price differential justifies what will be additional shipping costs to Iraq.

If you are purchasing through a third-party dealer through, you should only purchase books with a condition designation of “new” or “like new”. The only exception is if the book is very desirable and there is only a “very good” copy available. Please do not purchase anything in less than “very good” condition.

Frequently, you may come across a notice that the item is “temporarily unavailable”. Don’t be put off by it. Order the book anyway. We believe that keeps inventories low because most newer publications come from the U.S.

How can I donate books from my personal library?

You are most welcome to donate books from your personal library or local bookstore as long as they are within any one of the following subject areas:

Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics
Radio, TV, Film
Art Education
Industrial Design

We ask that you first compile a list of the books you would like to donate and email it to Judith at Please make sure to include each book’s:

  1.  Title
  2.  ISBN number

This allows us to keep track of what we’re receiving and check new titles against our Amazon Wishlist. All shipments should be mailed to:

Attn: Srimoyee Mitra / Nicole McCabe – 168:01
The Art Gallery of Windsor
401 Riverside Drive West
Windsor, Ontario N9A 7J1
Phone: 519-977-0013 x 134 or 125

Wafaa Bilal: 168:01 in the news: 

Workshop tackles social justice and art by Mary Caton: 

The Cultural Frontline on BBC World Service: 

The World at Six CBC podcast:

Artist Wafaa Bilal uses blank books to rebuild Baghdad’s war-torn library:

Wafaa Bilal’s art to restock destroyed Iraqi Library on CBC News:

Exhibit garners international acclaim, donations… on by Ron Stang:


Listen to an interview with Wafaa Bilal on CBC One, Windsor Morning: 

Wafaa Bilal uses exhibit at Art Gallery of Windsor to resurrect burned Baghdad library posted by CBC News Windsor: 

The Iraqi artist rebuilding Baghdad University’s destroyed art library One book at a time In Huck Magazine by Joshua Gabert-Doyon: 

Artist’s ‘blank books’ project seeks to restock historic Baghdad library in The Guardian, by Marta Bausells:

Wafaa Bilal uses exhibit Art Gallery of Windsor to resurrect burned Baghdad library…, CBC News, by Mike Fuhrmann:

Artist uses exhibit in Windsor, Ont., to resurrect Baghdad library by Mike Fuhrmann, The Canadian Press:

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal is using an exhibit in Windsor, Ont., to resurrect a Baghdad library, National Post, by Mike Fuhrmann:

Help Rebuild the University of Baghdad’s Destroyed Art Library, One Book at a Time by Carey Dunne in Hyperallergic:    

Wafaa Bilal Revives Iraqi Library in Ontario Show in Canadian Art, by Leah Sandals:

The Iraqi artist rebuilding Baghdad University’s destroyed art library:

In this exhibit

Wafaa Bilal, Dark Palace, 2003-13, archival inkjet photograph on paper, edition of 5, 127.0 cm x 102.0 cm, Gift of Dr. John Driscoll, 2019


"168:01" 2016

Wafaa Bilal: 168:01

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