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Imagining Future in Iraqi Kurdistan

Imagining Future in Iraqi Kurdistan Documentary Film as a Visual Approach in times of Crisis While the Kurdish Regional Government has introduced new economic and political potential in the past decade, the current landscape has led to new concerns regarding national safety, democratic practices, and the future promise of Kurdish independence. How do people imagine, renegotiate and plan their future within these changing landscapes of “crisis” in Iraqi Kurdistan? Lana Askari is a PhD student in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester and a visiting researcher at AUIS this year. Together with the screening of her short documentary film “Haraka Baraka: Movement is a Blessing” on Kurdish return migration, in this guest lecture she will talk about her current research, which uses documentary filmmaking in exploring how people imagine, renegotiate and plan their future in Iraqi Kurdistan. An AUIS podcast is now available for this talk. 

Middle East Cinema

AUIS is hosting the Middle Eastern (and North African) Cinema series every Wednesday 5:00 PM at A-G-05.   The event will continue throughout this academic year, and a critically acclaimed movie will be screened every week (same time and place). All films are subtitled in English.  Come enjoy the visual legacy of the region. The screenings are open to AUIS community only. 

Hajar Zahawy: The Kurdish Daf - from Traditional to Global Instrument

This performance presentation will cover all the different aspects of the Kurdish Daf, from its playing technique to its history, its roll in Kurdish music and culture, its function in Kurdish music, and its role as a global international instrument in modern and Fusion projects. There will be a solo performance by Hajar Zahawy and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions at the end. 

"Social Injustice: towards problematizing inequality"

Mariwan Kanie is a Kurdish intellectual, writer, and political scientist. Since 1993 he has lived and worked in the Netherlands. He studied at the University of Amsterdam, and completed his PhD in humanities in 2010. His thesis is titled: Martyrdom between nation and religion. Political love, poetry, and self sacrifice in Kurdish nationalism. He teaches in the department of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Jewish studies at the same university. Four of his books have been published in Kurdistan. His book 'Complex Identities' won the prize of the best non-fiction in 2004, this prize is issued by the Kurdish Ministry of Culture. He is one of the editorial board members of "Rahand", a Kurdish intellectual magazine. He publishes in the Kurdish newspapers Hawlati and Awena. He also regularly publishes in the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw and appears on television in the news commentary programs Nova and Netwerk. Tara Jaff, is a Kurdish musician who has been exposed to many influences. Over the years, she experimented with different string instruments, but it was her fascination with the ancient harps of Sumeria, Assyria and Elam, dating as far back as 3000 BC that led her to the contemporary Celtic harp.She has embraced this instrument and introduced to Kurdish music in particularly folk songs. She has developed her own innovative style to adapt to the various musical rhythms and modes of the region, bringing a contemporary expression to an ancient form of music and song. She has been living in the United Kingdom since 1976 and has performed widely mainly as a solo artist in concerts, festivals, galleries, conferences as well having appeared regularly on radio and television worldwide. Her occasional collaborations have been with a wide range of artists such as film-makers, story-tellers, poets, painters as well as other musicians. She is also involved in outreach work where she takes her harp to hospitals to play soothing music for patients and staff.Along with Fran Hazelton and June Peters she founded Zipang, a storytelling group which focuses on stories from ancient Mesopotamia. For the past several years, she has been a committee member of the London Kurdish Film Festival.  

Guest lecture by Dr. Wendy Hamelink

Wendy Hamelink received her PhD from Leiden University. Her thesis "The Sung Home: Narrative, morality, and the Kurdish nation", is an analysis of the lives and works of Kurdish oral performers called dengbejs. In 2014 she conducted a postdoc research project funded by the Max Weber Foundation about cultural memories of Armenians from the Sassoun region in eastern Turkey, who now live in Beirut, Istanbul and Paris. Currently, she works on the revision of her dissertation that will be published by Brill publishers, and on writing an article about Sassoun Armenians. At the same time she is preparing a new larger research project that focuses on representation and experiences of Syrian Kurdish women. Finally, she is an associate editor of the Kurdish Studies Journal, an international academic peer-reviewed journal.

Dengbêjs in Turkey: The Modernity of an Oral Tradition

On May 10th, Dr. Wendy Hamelink, a researcher on the Kurdish region, delivered a guest lecture on the longstanding art and tradition of Kurdish storytellers and performers called “dengbêjs”. Her talk focused on how this tradition is faring in the modern world; the meaning of tradition and modernity, of progress and backwardness, and the use and misuses of these global discourses. Dr. Hamelink gave a detailed  talk about the art of the dengbêjs, which is the art of storytelling in sung verse. It was one of the most important forms of Kurdish cultural production in Turkey until 1980. Many dengbêjs stopped performing or sang only occasionally after that year, but came back into public life in the 2000s. She spoke in depth about two topics in particular related to this tradition: the life stories of dengbêjs and the politicization of their art. Their life stories reflect important changes taking place in Kurdish communities since the 1980s. She also mentioned the discourses of political activists who understand and present the dengbêjs as cultural and historical heritage of the Kurdish nation. Listen to the lecture in the podcast below.  Dr. Hamelink holds a Ph.D. from Leiden University. Her thesis "The Sung Home: Narrative, morality, and the Kurdish nation", is an analysis of the lives and works of dengbêjs. In 2014 she conducted a research project funded by the Max Weber Foundation about cultural memories of Armenians from the Sassoun region in eastern Turkey, who now live in Beirut, Istanbul and Paris. She is preparing a new larger research project that focuses on the representation and experiences of Syrian Kurdish women. She is also an associate editor of the Kurdish Studies Journal, an international academic peer-reviewed journal.

Preserving Iraq's Cultural Heritage

The symposium convened three sessions to consider cultural heritage from different perspectives. The first session convened the leading managers of cultural heritage in Iraq and Kurdistan Region. Gyorgy Busztin, special appointee of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq opened by calling for Iraqis and Kurds to celebrate their cultural heritage. Iqbal Kadhim Aajeel conveyed news of last month’s opening of the Nasriyah Museum, which houses many precious objects from the oldest civilizations of the south. Mala Awat, Head of the Erbil Directorate of Antiquities, highlighted the unique cultural heritage of Kurdistan Region including the Erbil citadel. Hashim Hama Abdullah, head of the Sulaimani Museum, recounted how it was the first major museum to reopen after the 1991 war; the project was made possible with the support of then Prime Minister Dr. Barham Salih and former Iraqi President Mam Jalal Talabani. Finally, AUIS professor Marie Labrosse spoke about her work translating and publishing Kurdish poetry, and the importance of digitizing all forms of cultural heritage, especially manuscripts, as a way to ensure their preservation for future generations. At the present time, Iraq and the Kurdistan’s cultural heritage is under threat of annihilation from ISIS; the second session convened to discuss cultural heritage in a time of crisis. Ahmed Kamil Muhammad, Director of the Iraqi National Museum, emphasized the Iraqi Museum’s reopening was an important alternative to ISIS’s program of destruction. In questions, he emphasized how secure the new museum is, making it almost impossible to loot. Muayyad Said Damirji, the former Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, emphasized that we had been through war and crisis together before, and that it was the heroic actions of dedicated individuals that helped protect the museums through those times. Bilal Wahab, a professor at AUIS, described how the sale of antiquities represented ISIS’s second best source of revenue and how terror networks like ISIS often worked hand-in-hand with criminal networks to profit off of chaos. Finally, Axel Plathe, the director of UNESCO Iraq, talked about how UNESCO works together with local institutions to fund dozens of cultural initiatives across Iraq and Kurdistan Region. With the value and threats to cultural heritage identified, it was time to discuss what cultural professionals could do to protect and promote cultural heritage as part of a prosperous future for the region. Tobin Hartnell described how it was cheaper and more effective to in-source talent to universities like AUIS to train the next generation of cultural professionals. Kozad Ahmed, Head of Archaeology at the University of Sulaimani described his vision of building the capacity of Kurdistan region to manage its own cultural heritage. Simone Muhl, a professor from Ludwig-Maximilian-Universitat in Munich, described how rich the Kurdistan region is in terms of its cultural heritage, so the government urgently needs to assess which sites are in danger and excavate the most important before they are destroyed by construction. Jessica Giraud, head of the French Mission to Sulaimani Province, described how remote sensing can document hidden traces of past sites to provide a better picture of Kurdistan’s complex past. Finally, Mustafa Ahmed of the Institut Francais du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Erbil described the situation in Syria, where cultural heritage is being systematically erased as part of the civil war there. The AUIS cultural heritage symposium is unique in Sulaimani Province; it represents the best chance to bring the community together to discuss our strategies for the future protection and promotion of culture in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. As a sign of how important this issue is to the future of Iraq, the symposium was attended by several leading public figures of the region, such as Dr. Barham Salih, the founder and chairman of AUIS, Ms. Hero Ibrahim Ahmed Talabani, Mazhari Khaliqi, Jamal Baban, Izzedin Mustafa, and Ahmed Jalal. Leading figures in cultural heritage were also in the audience: Dr. Abdullah Khorsheed, Director of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) and Dara Al-Yaqoobi, Head of the High Commission for the Erbil Citadel. We are building on the success of this symposium to create an annual series at AUIS dealing with cultural heritage. I hope you can join us at AUIS for next year’s symposium. For more information on how to be involved, please contact Dr. Hartnell at tobin.hartnell@auis.edu.krd or Christine van den Toorn, the Director of IRIS, at iris@auis.edu.krd.  Article by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, Department of Social Sciences, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. 
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