Road through Kurdistan
P21 Gallery, Kings Cross, London
3rd – 26th October 2019
Organised by Gulan
Curated by Richard Wilding and Mariwan Jalal
The exhibition Road through Kurdistan shows artworks and artefacts relating to Kurdish history, culture and identity. It brings together an eclectic group of international artists, both Kurdish and non-Kurdish. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of post-WWI peace treaties signed by the imperial powers which created the modern borders between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. It also reflects the region’s religious and ethnic diversity, genocide under Saddam Hussein’s regime, religious persecution and destruction of heritage by Daesh (ISIS), and future hopes for the Kurdish people.
The exhibition takes its name from a book written by the New Zealand engineer A.M Hamilton. In 1928, Hamilton was commissioned by the British administration that then controlled Iraq to build a road from Erbil through the mountains and gorges of Kurdistan to the Persian frontier. In his book, Road through Kurdistan, published in 1937, Hamilton describes the numerous challenges he overcame to construct a route through some of the world’s most beautiful but difficult and dangerous terrain.
Hamilton had to enlist the support of rival tribal leaders and unite an ethnically and religiously diverse workforce. During the four years taken to complete the road, he developed a deep understanding of the region and respect for its Kurdish, Arab, Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen and Jewish inhabitants. Towards the end of the book, Hamilton has an awful premonition of the ethnic and religious sectarianism that would grip Iraq in subsequent decades.
The exhibition Road through Kurdistan also looks forward to a more positive future, in which Kurdish culture and identity may flourish and more bridges can be built between religious and ethnic neighbours. There are now new ‘roads through Kurdistan’ to be explored, with opportunities for peaceful coexistence, trade and tourism.
The exhibition is part of a series of events marking the 10th anniversary of Gulan, a UK registered charity which has worked to promote Kurdish culture and heritage. The exhibition is curated by Gulan’s Creative Director Richard Wilding and Kurdish artist Mariwan Jalal.