By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
As we have discussed many times free speech can be a powerful weapon against the injustices and in the case of the Islamic State, genocide. A new exhibition in the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan in Northern Iraq provides through art an interpretation of the struggle faced by ordinary individuals at the hands of extremists. It ties not only differing cultures but transcends the fences of language that are often barriers to understanding and empathy.
The Dohuk Art Gallery featured thirty artists organized by the Center for Graphic Art in Northern Iraq for the purpose of contributing to the fight against the Islamic State. It is not just conventional war implements that further the battle, but it is often the case of ideals, allegiances, and blind faith that aids the Islamic State.
Artists featured in Dohuk Gallery seek to change these beliefs through painting the atrocities prosecuted against the Kurdish People in an artistic representation showing the honor in protecting their society and humanity in general. Niquash reporters interviewed several participants bringing their thoughts and reflections to canvas and clay.
Shiraz Aziz, a Kurdish artist, discussed how artists can be like politicians in mobilizing popular opinion: “It is all about local artists supporting local troops who are fighting against the extremists. The role of the artist is to highlight the terrible acts the extremists have undertaken and their impact upon society. And that’s what the artists in this exhibition have tried to do.”
Hassan Abdul Ghafoor created an obelisk shaped sculpture. “I wanted to show the long history of the Kurdish people through this,” the artist explains. “I also wanted to emphasis the negative role played by the extremists in the way they demolish ancient sites, shrines and mosques and churches – all of which represent humanity’s legacy here. Our presence here depends on our troops, who’ve been fighting the extremists for months and sacrificing their lives. That is why they deserve our appreciation and respect. They are our protectors.”
A painter, Fatah Mohammed’s works attracted much praise and attention during the exhibition by representing a peaceful co-existence within the diversity of Iraqi society. “This country was – and it will continue to be – a land of peaceful coexistence, regardless of one’s sectarian, ethnic or religious origin,” the artist noted. “Iraq’s diverse society was behind the country’s prosperity. Many lived peacefully together until the Islamic state militants arrived, with the darkness of their clothing reflecting the darkness of their thoughts. My painting is also a call for society to react positively to the different minorities who have made their way to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
Graphic Artist Faman Ismael focused on the ingredients to life but added a political aspect. He stated: “You cannot choose your country, or your color. No matter how powerful you are, you may one day find yourself in a different land, with people who speak differently and who believe in different things. And that is why we shouldn’t crush any sector of society just because it is different. The Islamic State group wants to do this. It comes to impose black on everyone. In my artwork I wanted to say that life is only beautiful if we appreciate all the colors we can see.”
Dlovan Mohammed Amin, an art critic, praised the works as powerful in bringing an understanding of what faces his society. “Exhibitions like this are particularly important at times like this. It was able to reflect some of the tragedies that had befallen the people in this area and it has been able to feature some of these issues and this is the real role of art in life. The artists are fighting the Islamic State group with their wonderful work.”
Artists provide both a window into their minds as well as those of the society and time for which they live within. Art is often a key to open the door to empathy.
By Darren Smith
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