Loading...
Blog Featured Image

Kurdistan, Art The Realistic Relation Between the both

The Manifesto Film Festival is thrilled to present this fascinating blog crafted by Chiman Salih, highlighting the intrinsic link between Kurdish culture and magnificent art.

Ahmedi Khani ((1651-1707) the Kurdish poet and philosopher who oftentimes dubbed as the Kurdish Shakespeare, at the outset of his famous epopee of the Kurdish literature ( Mam u Zin) said “ Mam u Zin is just a way to express the sadness that fills inside me”, he did mean that Mam and Zin; the two lovers that doomed to be disunited, are symbols of Kurdistan and Kurdish people. Mam u Zin has became the most famous Kurdish literature and art piece which has portrayed the division of Kurdistan, and callousness of the history against the Kurds.

Khani was a leading author to be able to lay the foundation of a literary story style which is fundamental in creating all genres of art. He has chosen intentionally the eve of Nawroz which is the biggest national feast of the Kurds to be the day of the first dating between the two lovers.

It is a combination of history, romance and social life, it can be described as Kurdish Romeo and Juliet, was published in 1692, otherwise it’s a leading national struggle piece of literature written in artistic style. Previously, in 1514 in the Chaldiran war between Ottomans and Safavids, the Kurdistan land got divided for the first time between the two the then great empires in the Middle East. Before that date a number of Kurdish Emirates were ruling the great Kurdistan which is today only exists on the google map.

The Kurds, according to unofficial statistics are currently about 45 millions. There are a number of reasons for the division, all of which flow in the same downstream except few. The main reason of the division was the invader’s authoritarian appetency; expansionism policies, greediness, their willing to take over the land and confiscate the rich resources. Benefiting from the notorious bravery of the Kurdish fighters in the ranks of their armies in their frequent war with each other and with their competing new emerged powers in the west. Currently, the World superpowers are treating Kurds in the same manner; the war against ISIS is the best testament of that.

This famed bravery of the Kurds made Xenophon to mention Kurds in his book “A people called the Carduchoi are mentioned in Xenophon’s Anabasis. They inhabited the mountains north of the Tigris in 401 BC, living in well-provisioned villages. They were enemies to the king of Persia as were the Greek mercenaries with Xenophon, but their response to thousands of armed and desperate strangers was hostile. They had no heavy troops who could face the battle-hardened hoplites, but they used longbows and slings effectively, and for the Greeks the “seven days spent in traversing the country of the Carduchians had been one long continuous battle, which had cost them more suffering than the whole of their troubles at the hands of the king [of Persia] and Tissaphernes put together.”

Another reason, was that the then Kurdish emirates didn’t enjoy a well established solidarity among them because of the tough geographical nature of the Region, and the existence of gigantic Two competing empires around them in addition that the Kurdistan land is landlocked area. During that time, the oriental empires began to lose power and impact to the interest of the emerging West powers. One of the orientalist said” But if geography helps to define the Kurds, it also helps to divide them. The ranks of jagged peaks, with their walled-in valleys and forbidding chasms, seal the Kurds off from one another as much as from the outside world.”

Then, after the first division, treaty after treaty came to make the Kurds more shattered among the countries in the region, specially afterThe enforcement of national boundaries beginning after World War I (1914–18) impeded the seasonal migrations of the flocks and separated many of the people from each other. Since then Kurdistan got divided among Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. And, there are other countries having large Kurdish communities.

Nevertheless, experiencing this bitter history, the Kurds never become something of the past, one of the west reporters says” the Kurd are very smart in showing their distinct with those around them artfully and persistently, which it’s been always the secret of their continuity.”

Alessa lightbourne, the American professor who has written newest Novel on the life and culture of the Kurds ( The Kurdish Bike), commences her statement about Kurdistan by speaking about the importance of this very land to the life history of human being ” A grandiose vibe to the place. You can not exactly put it into words.” She adds” Fellows like Gilgamesh, the mythic Akkadian hero king came from here. Patriarchs like Abraham. This is where Alexander triumphed over Darius. A who is who of Ancients chiseled themselves into the gritty embrace of history on this very plain.” “The Shanidar cave located in Kurdistan, which is holding the trace of proto humans who first migrated from 65,000 BCE, in this place the earliest forms of domesticated wheat have been found. The first evidence of writing comes from a little to the south.”

Furthermore, she says “This part of the Fertile Crescent was the breadbasket for ancient Assyria staring around the 25th century BCE, and was Babylonian, Persian, Greeks, Parthians, Akkadian, Arabs, Ottomans. Some schoolers believe Kurdish culture originated with the Medes. There is something special about this place, which made people think up Agriculture and writing and religion as we know it? “ she does mean that all of these great inventions had accomplished on this land and it’s contiguous surrounding.

Going back to history, “The land of Karda” is mentioned on a Sumerian clay-tablet dated to the 3rd millennium B.C. This land was inhabited by “the people of Su” who dwelt in the southern regions of Lake Van; Other Sumerian clay-tablets referred to the people, who lived in the land of Karda, as the Qarduchi and the Qurti. Karda/Qardu is etymologically related to the Assyrian term Urartu and the Hebrew term Ararat.

During the last decades of the 20th Century: The Halabja chemical attack in 1988, The Anfal genocide, the devastation of nearly 4,500 villages, the 1991 Mass Exodus, and many more. These are recorded as War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Crimes of Genocide. As a result of such heinous crimes and atrocities, statistics show that approximately (one million) innocent Kurds were massacred, some of which were buried alive, others suffocated due to poisonous gas attack, thousands beheaded, and many still unaccounted for.

One of the bright sides of Kurdistan is that there are a number of divers of ethnic and religious component living with the Kurds. Unfortunately, most of them have been victimized and went through genocide and persecution by the consequent dictators and the religious forces coming from outside, the latest one was the ISIS genocide against Yezidess and Christian.

Axiomatically, the division had left a disastrous trace on the Kurdish culture, art, and nation building even though the people struggled hard to preserve their cultural identity. The consequent rulers have persecuted Kurds, de- kurdized the land, suppressed them culturally. In 1991, after the mass exodus of Kurdistan, people fled the callous of Saddam’s regime, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq being established. In Turkey, only after 2000 did the Kurds get the right to speak in their own language. In Syria, under the Ba’ath regime, the Kurds still don’t have the right to have national identity cards. In Iran, they are experiencing hardest type of life which is indecent to human being, execution of Kurdish youth occur on daily basis, portering which is taken by a great number of poor Kurds on the border as a job to secure a living for their loved ones is shocking, seeing the scenes of the Poole who are portering one will get perplexed how human being has this kind of life in 21 century!

Through the past three decades, the World and the Region have witnessed dramatic changes. The globalization and the New Order, accompanied with technological growth have affected the culture and art promotion in the whole world. The artists and intellectuals created many international communities to develop their joint projects. Many of the groups in the world benefited from the new opportunities to promote and protect their own cultures. The Kurdish talented and intellectuals are active in this field. They have been able to introduce the Kurdish art and culture, history on the international stages like in international festivals and cultural activities, forums. They have portrayed the Kurdish history through their films, documentaries and other genres of art and media. But yet if compared to potentials, Kurdistan is still undiscovered treasure for art production waiting those who are wearing golden bracelets and creative minds to be explored duly. . Regarding the cinema, a few projects had been produced until the beginning of this millennia. Hence a dense stream for producing Kurdish movies has emerged a pretty good number of Kurdish movies have participated in the international festivals, there are a number of award winner artists and films. But, also the result is not satisfactory for a number of reasons; Firstly, I have begun this piece by mentioning some important turning points in the history to show the audience that this people and place could be materials of myriad of worldly recognized masterpieces. From this point, we can say that what have been achieved in terms of art and exploration yet is only a drop in a sea. Secondly, there are obstacles facing the progress of cinema and art works in general. Some of these obstacles are technically and some of them related to societal issues. In terms of technical issues many of the people working in the field complaining about not having a sufficient capacity for producing decent products coping with international standards. Regarding the societal issues, there are a number of obstacles or reasons for not having more advanced art projects:

Tearing the people apart from each other means also the division of energies and power and each part got influenced by a different culture in a negative way. Because the politics played it’s role the Kurdish culture in all of the parts gone through distortion policies. It wasn’t a cultural exchange but aimed at perishing Kurdish identity. For example, most of the orientalist testify that the Kurdistan women are living in more freedom than the other women in the Middle East. Actually, natural openness in society is an elementary part for having a progressive art. But, after decades one can notice cultural deformities in this regard. Having more open minded societies is essential for building the milestone of cinema, today even in media the journalists are facing obstacles in addressing many of the issues that must be addressed. Also, as a result of division now they have a kind of language barrier in speaking and writing. The consequent authorities in the different states are deliberately planned for creating language barrier to disunite them more and more. Working for larger audiences in cinema and art is crucial in terms of profitability and to make work a success. Furthermore, Kurdistan was deprived from having academic institutions for art and cinema and for a long history Kurdistan had been living In estrangement with the outside world. The art institutions are relatively new in Kurdistan and yet they are complaining from lack of capabilities. There is no outstanding works in different genres of art specifically the cinema without having progressed institutions academically and qualified professionals.

Back to Ahmedi Khani; he was an insightful author who had managed to mix love, art, social life, customs and traditions with the national struggle for a shattered country into pieces which is difficult to be re-assembled easily. Today, even after centuries the Kurds are living in the same swirling suffering, and as the famous Kurdish poet (Hemin) in the end of 20th century says” Khani no longer alive to reword our romance , or else there is another Mem and Zin living in Kurdistan,” he is indicating to the same point that Khani wrote his “epopee” for the sake of it.

Undoubtedly, if we consider the extent of suffering that has persisted for centuries until today in variety of forms, and the importance of the land of Kurdistan to the entire human history, one concludes that the presence of this great history in arts is very slight and there are already thousands of treasures and rough material waiting the creative ideas and hands to turn them into landmarks and scenes which could shake human conscience and curiosity. Certainly, Kurdistan for artists is a hive of activity.


Stichting Manifesto Film Festival

Jacques Veltmanstraat 15

1065 EG Amsterdam The Netherlands