Located in the Kuridsh region of Iraq, the city of Sulayaniyah is transforming a 60,000 square metre abandoned tobacco factory into a cultural hub where young artists can gather, to create.
A group of musicians, who gather weekly in the old factory, attracts performers from across the city and welcomes any instrument into the mix.
“It starts as some form of insanity, everybody is just hitting their instrument, and then at some point, they find a rhythm (…) and what you have after an hour and a half is a masterpiece,” says Ravin Bagg, one of the musicians at the hub.
It’s not only musicians who have found a home at the factory. Fine artists are also part of the collective.
Tara Abdullah has transformed a corner of the plant into her gallery and studio.
The city of Sulayaniyah has a long history dedicated to the arts. Since the modern city’s founding more than 200 years ago, it has been a creative hotbed for singers, artists, polymaths and poets, like Mahwi, Piramerd and Nali.
The project of converting the factory into a creative hub is supported by non-profit organisations and the Kurdish regional government.
So far, the transformation is still in its early stages, and only one of the facility’s buildings has been converted into an art studio and an exhibition gallery.
In the upcoming years, the aim of the centre is to provide more creative spaces including a theatre, teaching labs, and a dance studio.
Urbilium game allows players to relive Erbil’s history
Another Kurdish city fostering creativity is Erbil. Lanah Haddad, a Kurdish-Iraqi archaeologist-turned-artist, invented a strategy board game called “Urbilum”.
The two-player game is based on the history of Erbil and its citadel, which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.
Based on accurate historical information, the plot allows players to battle for power and influence as did the ancient Assyrian kings Ashurbanipal and Sennacherib.
Haddad believes that following decades of conflict, art has become incredibly important to the Kurdish people, allowing them to reconnect with their heritage.
“We just don’t want to talk about what happened in the past, we don’t forget it, but we take it as resilience and try to build something new,” she says.
Like many young artists, Haddad hopes that her art will help bring communities together and inspire interest in the history of the region.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA: KURDISH ARTISTS SHARE THEIR WORK
Kurdish flutist Shene shared this video of her celebrating a traditional festival in her homeland.