Savan Abdulrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
On 26 October, people in the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan woke up to see women’s dresses hanging on a long line stretching almost 5km long. Some could see it from their house windows, some through the windows of their cars as they drove along and many others came across it via social media. The initiative formed part of a woman’s art project which focuses on women who have faced violence in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The nearly five-kilometer length of clothes being hung on the line belonged to women and children who had experienced violence in Kurdistan. The line of clothes was hung, stretching across the city from Nali park to the public court of Sulaymaniyah. Artist Tara Abdulla (24) coordinated and initiated the project. She is a graduate in Fine Arts from the University of Sulaymaniyah.
The project took three months of research and preparation work and was supported by the Civil Development Organization (CDO). Tara says: “We knocked on 99,678 houses in Kurdistan and asked whether they witnessed an act of violence or not. I asked only for a piece of their dresses. We faced many difficulties, sometimes we were kicked out of the houses where residents didn’t like the idea”. Tara describes the work as the longest art project that has been created in Kurdistan.
Tara explained the rationale of the project: “As a female individual growing up with suffering in Kurdish society, this was the reason and motivation for me to start this project”. There have been mixed reactions to the project: Some took exception to the project, claiming it “ruined the image of the city”. Many others supported the project as a contemporary work of art that challenges certain values and practices of a conservative society.
On the opening night of the public unveiling of the project, some unknown youth set the clothes in the project on fire. Shanaz Ibrahim, the Kurdistan Union’s Party (PUK) administrator, requested that the project be removed immediately. On the following day, Tara issued a press statement: “The work was set to be there for two days but we urgently removed the artwork for the safety of the city. Through this work I wanted to highlight and reveal women’s pain, and express what is felt in private in the public sphere to reveal these concerns. This artwork reflects contributions from women, and they express not even the full extent of violence that women are subjected to every day”.
City activists defending this contemporary art project and work have expressed how significant it is and what it aims to represent. Many people think that Tara’s artwork attained its goal by making people severely address and confront the issues it is concerned about highlighting.