Halabja in the Golden Days
American University of Kurdistan, Duhok
Between 18th and 23rd October 2023, Gulan organised ‘Halabja in the Golden Days’, an exhibition and events programme celebrating the history and culture of Halabja, hosted by the American University of Kurdistan in Duhok.
The city of Halabja is known for the terrible chemical weapons attack that took place on the 16th March 1988, an event that would forever cast a shadow over the city and its people.
‘Halabja in the Golden Days’ celebrates Halabja as it was before 1988, when it was renowned for its natural beauty, history and culture. The city produced many poets, the most famous being Abdullah Goran, the father of modern Kurdish poetry. One of Halabja’s most important historical figures was Adela Jaff, who governed the town from 1909 until her death in 1924. It was rare for a woman to occupy such a position of power, and she was renowned for overseeing one of the most prosperous eras in Halabja’s history.
Gulan and its associates conducted interviews with people from Halabja to create a series of articles on the city’s art, music and sports. Together with essays written by experts on Halabja’s poetry and costumes, these articles were exhibited at Portsmouth Cathedral in 2021. Gulan was pleased to be given the opportunity by American University of Kurdistan in Duhok to bring the exhibition to Kurdistan for the first time.
‘Halabja in the Golden Days’ included artworks by a number of Kurdish artists relating to the culture of Halabja, and a display of four Kurdish costumes curated by Della Murad. An artwork installation by Mariwan Jalal of colourful banners depicting the poets and historical figures of Halabja was displayed in the University’s central staircase.
The exhibition opening reception on 17th October featured speeches by Majid Sayid Salih, Deputy Governor of Duhok, Dr. Randall Rhodes, President of the American University of Kurdistan, Dr. Jiyar Aghapouri, Director of the Center for Peace & Human Security (CPHS) and Gulan’s Creative Director Richard Wilding. The opening was attended by around 200 people including the Governor of Duhok Ali Tatar and other dignitaries.
A series of related events were also organised, including an illustrated talk on the 18th October by Richard Wilding about Shaikh Mahmoud and the Kurdish uprising in Sulaimani, which also relates to the history of Halabja. On the 19th October a music event was held in the exhibition space, and on the 23rd October a poetry event celebrating some of Halabja’s most famous poets was held in the University’s library. All events were very well attended, with the poetry event even attracting too many attendees to fit in the allocated room.
Video feature by the Kurdistan Chronicle