There is a statue of a beautiful young girl carrying a jar and pouring water down and surrounded by another forty jars around her on the crossroads between the famous Karrada Dakhil (the inner district) and Karrada Kharij (the outer district) in the capital city of Baghdad. Her name is Kahramana. The iconic statue was made during the 1960s, by a famous Iraqi artist named Mohammed Ghani Hikmat.
I go around it when I go to the Iqama office (Department of Residence) in Baghdad. Kahramana fascinates me for many reasons. The fact that it was built five decades ago was a testimony to the talent of all Iraqi artists.
Many people believe that the statue of Kahramana is a statue depicting part of the tale of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” from the One Thousand and One Nights, which is often known in English as the Arabian Nights. The slave girl Morgiana pours boiling oil into storage jars where the thieves are lying in wait to attack her master.
There was a young and smart girl called Kahramana, who used to help her father running a small hotel in old Baghdad. The father used to bring a cart full of empty jars, and in the next morning, he fills each jar with oil to sell them in the market.
On a cold winter night, Kahramana heard some noise and later discovered that there were thieves hiding in the empty jars. Their heads were only visible to watch. Kahramana went to her father’s room, woke him up, and told him about what she saw. They came up with an idea to make some noise in the hotel so the thieves would hide completely inside the jars.
When this happened, she filled a jar with oil and started pouring the oil on every single jar with a thief hiding in it. The thieves began screaming, and one after the other jumped out of the jars, by the time this happened, the police came and arrested them.
This is the story as it is told in old tales, and it dates back to the pre-Islamic era. Maybe the Ali Baba story was derived from this old folklore.
Most impressive of all was the fact that the heroine of the story was a woman.
I don’t think there is any other Arab country that showcases a contemporary work of art depicting a female heroine in the middle of their streets.