Artists featured in Speaking Across Mountains: Kurdish Artists in Dialogue

Sherko Abbas

b. 1978, Iran; lives in Manchester, UK

Sherko Abbas is a Kurdish-Iraqi artist. Born in Iran, where his family lived as refugees, Abbas returned to Iraq when he was two years old. Employing video, performance, sculpture and sound, Abbas’ practice is dedicated to the visual memory and geopolitical situation of contemporary Iraq. Abbas has participated in many exhibitions internationally, including the current MoMa PS1 show ‘Theater of Operations,’ Long Island City, Queens; 'Archaic’, the Iraq Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; Biennale ‘Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin’ at the Louvre Auditorium, Paris, France. He studied Fine Art in Sulaymaniyah-Iraq and graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2015.

Khadija Baker

b. 1973, Amuda, Syria; lives in Montreal, Canada

Khadija Baker is a Montreal-based, multidisciplinary artist of Kurdish-Syrian descent. Baker immigrated to Canada from Syria in 2001. Baker’s installations investigate social and political themes centered on the uncertainty of home as it relates to persecution, identity, displacement, and memory. Her multi-disciplinary installations often combine textile, sculpture, performance, sound, and video, and often involve participative storytelling and performance to create active spaces of empathy and greater understanding. Baker has had solo exhibitions across Canada and has participated in many international exhibitions, including the 3rd Istanbul International Triennial, Istanbul, Turkey; the 6th DocuAsia Forum, Vancouver, Canada; and the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia. She completed her MFA studies at Concordia University, where she is a core member of the Centre for Oral History & Digital Storytelling.

Serwan Baran

b. 1968 in Baghdad, Iraq; lives between Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan

Iraqi-Kurdish artist Serwan Baran served as a soldier and war artist during Iraqi conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s. He addresses his own military experience in grotesque figural abstractions, using his art as a forceful denunciation of the horrors of war.  Since leaving Iraq in 2005, his work has became  increasingly expressionistic. Baran is considered among the ‘New Generation’ of Iraqi Painters. He represented the Iraq Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) with ‘Fatherland’, a commentary on the masculine and paternalistic dimensions of political culture in Iraq and the region. Since 1991, he has held solo exhibitions in Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Japan, and the Dominican Republic, and has participated in a large number of group exhibitions, including the Cairo Biennial (1999), the Kuwait Biennial (2011) and the Morocco Biennial (2012). Baran has won several awards, including a Gold Medal at the Plastic Arts Festival in Mahres, Tunisia (2002). Baran graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Babel University in Iraq, and taught in the painting department in the 1990s.

Savas Boyraz

b. 1980, Istanbul, Turkey; lives in Berlin, Germany

Savas Boyraz focuses on portrait photography, documentary, and fiction narratives. Throughout his practice he has often explored the struggle of the Kurdish community in the Middle East, as well as his own roots. Intertwining performance, photography, and moving image in his works, Boyraz blurs the line between art and political activism. Boyraz’s photographs document the sites of clashes between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish army in 2015-2016 in towns in southeastern Turkey. After months of restrictive, state-imposed curfews, residents of the areas were forced to flee, and the Turkish military bombarded what was left, killing more than 300 civilians. Boyraz has participated in exhibitions in the Hasselblad Center, Sweden; Foundation 3,14 Bergen, Norway; Art Space Auckland, New Zealand; Kunstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, Germany; and the Aperture Foundation, USA, among others. Boyraz was also featured in the exhibition ‘Planet-Kurdistan’ during the 53rd Venice Biennale. He graduated from the Photography Department of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul in 2009. He completed his Master’s in fine arts at Konstfack, Stockholm. 

Zehra Doğan

b. 1989, Diyarbakır, Turkey; lives  between France and the UK 

Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish artist and journalist. In 2017, Doğan was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for “terrorist propaganda” because of a painting she shared on social media depicting the destruction of Nusaybin, a town in southeastern Turkey, after clashes between state security forces and Kurdish insurgents. Doğan’s imprisonment prompted  an international outcry and a 2018 mural by street artist Banksy in New York City. In March 2019, Doğan was nominated for the Index on Censorship’s 2019 Freedom of Expression Awards in the Arts category. She was also the recipient of the 2018 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation. Her work has been exhibited widely internationally following her release including shows in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. She is currently featured in an exhibition of drawings by incarcerated artists at the Drawing Center in New York, USA. She graduated from Dicle University’s Fine Arts Program. (2013)

Bahram Hajou 

b. 1952 in Deruna, Syria; lives in Berlin, Germany 

Syrian-born German artist Bahram Hajou left his homeland when he was 18 years old and went to Baghdad to study at the Fine Arts Academy.  He moved to Prague and later to East and West Berlin before settling down and completing his studies at the Fine Arts Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany. Hajou’s paintings are subtle works of nature and humanity. His gentle strokes and original colouring suggest tales of beauty and love, fear and solitude, forgiveness and understanding, anxiety, and furtiveness. Hajou’s works have been exhibited across France, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the UAE, the UK, and the USA. He was awarded the Josef Albers Museum Germany Award (2001) and the Henri Matisse Award from the Château-Musée Grimaldi, France (2014).

Hayv Kahraman 

b. 1981, Baghdad, Iraq; lives in Los Angeles, USA

Hayv Kahraman is an Iraqi artist of Kurdish descent. She uses a vocabulary of narrative, memory and dynamics of non-fixity found in diasporic cultures. They serve as the essence of her visual language and the product of her experience as an Iraqi refugee/come émigré. Kahraman’s recent solo exhibitions include shows at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles; The Third Line, Dubai; and Jack Shainman, New York. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; and the 2009 Sharjah Biennial. Kahraman was shortlisted for the 2011 Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum and has received the award “Excellence in Cultural Creativity”, the Global Thinkers Forum. Kahraman studied at the University of Umeå, Sweden and Accademia di arte e design di Firenze, Italy, and now lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.

Kani Kamil

b. 1981, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, lives in Manchester, UK

Kani Kamil is an Iraqi-Kurdish artist who lives and works in the UK. Kamil employs personal stories, photography, needle-work, archival material, and sound to expose the tension between nature and culture and the construction of gender in society, using her personal experiences to critique the absence of women’s voices. She is interested in revealing forgotten and hidden stories and uses her own hair as a material in her practice. Kamil’s work has been exhibited at various locations across the UK, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Her work has also been exhibited at the Institute of Fine Art Sulaymaniyah, Iraq; at the Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland in a project curated by Yoko Ono; and at the 18th international open at WMG, Chicago, USA. She is currently a member of the ‘Travelling Heritage Bureau’ group in Manchester. Kamil holds a Master’s Degree from Middlesex University London.

Şener Özmen 

b. 1971, Idil, Sirnak, Turkey, lives in Diyarbakır, Turkey

Şener Özmen is a Kurdish artist and writer. With biting irony, sharp humour, a clear aesthetic language, and with an outspoken and provocative critical attitude, Özmen questions the certainty of existing conditions and situations, authoritarian structures and existing taboos. Özmen has had several solo exhibitions and participated in many group exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad, including at Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Frac Corsica, Corte, France; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey; and Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, as part of Documenta13 (2012). Özmen was a recipient of the 2005 Prix Meuly from Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland. Currently he lives and works in Diyarbakır, Turkey. He graduated from the Department of Painting Education in the Faculty of Education at Cukurova University.

Walid Siti

b. 1954, Dohuk, Iraq lives in London, UK

Walid Siti graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1976 before continuing his arts education in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 1984 he requested political asylum in the United Kingdom, where he lives and works.
Formerly trained in printmaking, Siti works extensively in a variety of mediums including, installation, 3D works, work on paper and painting. His works traverse a complex terrain of memory and loss, while at the same time offering an acute insight into a world, which for him, has been a place of constant change. Through his work, he considers the tensions between collective identity, interdependence and the constraints placed on the individual by themes of heritage, tradition, homes, borders, mobility and migration. Siti’s work is in notable international collections such as The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA; The British Museum, London, UK; The Imperial War Museum, London, UK;  Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; The Iraq Memory Foundation, Art for American Embassy program, USA; and the Barjeel Art Foundation, UAE.

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