Savan Abdalrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
First of all, who is Zehra Doğan?
I am Zehra Doğan, and I was born in Amed in 1989. I have Mardin ancestry, but I was born in Amed and graduated from university there. In Amed I used to work in a women’s agency.
I started drawing when I was a child. I studied fine arts in university. During the resistance in 2015 and 2016 I worked as a journalist in Nusaybin, Derek, Island and Amed.
In the end I settled in Nusaybin as an artist and a journalist. I redrew a photography piece on Nusaybin which was taken and published by the Turkish people. My drawing was widespread on social media and became a symbol of Nusaybin. For that I was arrested and imprisoned for nearly three years.
Since being released from prison, I have used my art to continue my resistance in Europe, America and the whole world. I’m currently in Bashuri, Kurdistan. For me it is an honour to be here and I am very happy.
What brings you here to South Kurdistan?
Here in Kurdistan I will lead my resistance with the Jineoloji academy of women in science. For me Jineoloji is very important, because it is a women’s science. Currently in the world we have a positivist science taking over the world, but Jineoloji stands against this and says women’s science is a science of all the sexes. This is a science that we are coming back to after thousands of years. Upon that history, we want to create a new concept.
For me, as a Kurdish woman, and as a woman who creates her own art, Jineoloji is very important. Because art is not just creating something that is beautiful on the surface and it’s not just a decoration on a wall. This is especially the case when it comes to women’s issues. Rather it is a resistance, a science or a protest to stand against the norms of society and patriarchy, and to stand against an art which is created for personal interest. If women want to get to know themselves, Jineoloji is the right path for them.
Humans are political creatures. I don’t want to create art based on pain. I want to create art about who women are, or what my nation is. All my research is based on that. But why does my art enter politics? For this I have to say that my life started that way. My childhood was in Kurdistan, where war is continuous. I spent my youth in such an atmosphere. That is why my art and research is related to what happens around me. To be clear: I lived like that, and that’s why I make art this way.
When an artist creates art, she creates her life. Now in Europe, there’s no war, so they make art with different perspectives and concepts. For them, this is true as well. But not for me, because I was born in war and I’m still among the resistance. So I can’t be like a European.
When the Europeans draw a flower, I can’t say Europeans make such beautiful art that I want to draw the same. I can’t do that, because this is the fact of my life. Even if I copy their art, it will not come together in the same way. That’s why I say my art is political art and it’s the art of resistance.
What do you want to say with your “Grief of the Land” performance art?
I want to say that Kurdistan is not the land of murder. I want to say our culture is not the culture that murders women. Our culture is a coexistence culture.
In Kurdistan we had the uprising of 1991 and many citizens died. Many were vanished in the Anfal. We have to say what was that for? Wasn’t it for the sake of creating an independent country and naming it Kurdistan? Yes, we say we need an independent state, but we also need to think in a Kurdish mindset and have our own history and theory. We need to be ourselves, to be natural.
Now in Sulaymaniyah we have two thousand graves that belong to anonymous women who were murdered. This is not our culture. This is a dirty culture that belongs to the interest of specific people.
What do you say about the imagination of an artist?
Imagination is an important tool for an artist. An artist needs to have a different imagination. For example, you live in a place of war and resistance, that is the fact, but what is your imagination as an artist among war? For this you need a different language. For this you need art. In my art the concept of hope and hopelessness are mixed together like a spider’s web.
Sometimes an artist needs to go against the norms of his culture. Yes, your people might be upset by you. With your hopes you have to upset your nation sometimes. This is necessary in order to break their hopelessness with your hope.
And “Grief of the Land” is about this concept. The performance will upset my own people and they would say, Couldn’t she find something else to work on? Why did you choose this topic?
Art is not a verse in the Quran which God sends to an artist and the artist must follow. An artist needs to receive the verse from their nation and turn it into a protest tool.
How do you see or describe art?
I don’t look at art as a hobby or something normal. I would give my life for art. Sometimes they arrest you for your art, they ruin your life or they make you a homeless person and you ask, why? That’s because you have given your life for art. You have created a resistance. My life is art.
Now I don’t have a home. I can’t go to North Kurdistan. I haven’t seen my family in nearly 10 years and I don’t know when will I meet them again. This is all because I have made art my life.