Kashkul: Contemporary Art, Cultural Preservation, Research, and Translation in Kurdistan

In the Kurdish language the word kashkul describes a Sufi’s traditional begging bowl. Over time, the term evolved to also describe a commonplace book, a receptacle for intellectual and spiritual wealth. In choosing Kashkul as its name, the research and arts collaborative at the American University of Iraq Sulaimani has taken a further metaphorical leap, pioneering over ten researcher- or artist-initiated projects that fulfill its mission to “study, create, and preserve culture in Iraq.”

This spring, our collaborative opened the first sculpture garden in the region, as part of The Stone Man, a retrospective featuring over forty years of work by the Kurdish painter and Kashkul artist-in-residence Ismail Khayat, who became well known for painting boulders within the no-man’s-land that stretched between the warring factions of the Kurdish civil war. As part of his Kashkul residency, he sought to transform another landscape, to explore the potentiality of public space, and to demonstrate how disparate elements can be brought together. Khayat is the first of many who will mentor emerging student-artists in Sulaimani through Kashkul’s artist-in-residence program. The student-artists who worked as Ismail’s apprentices in the sculpture garden on the campus of Kashkul’s home institution, the American University of Iraq Sulaimani, came from all over the country, as did the stones they painted. The garden is an outdoor art gallery, open to students at all times, a space that suggests the many possibilities students have to transform spaces with culture.

 

Pshtewan Kamal and Shene Mohammed

 

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