City Arts forges links with Kurdistan

Date published: 21 Oct 2013

Posted by: Kate Duncan

Institute of Fine Art, Sulaimany University

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Kate Duncan, City Arts’ Creative Programme Manager, and dancer Shane Shambhu last month undertook a very interesting and successful trip to Kurdistan.

City Arts first began to forge international links with the region through our Artists in Exile programme led by Creative Programme Officer Gaylan Nazhad.   The organisation has since worked with Gaylan on a number of different occasions to organise events that have hosted internationally renowned artists including spoken word, visual arts, performance, dance, music, film and photography. World Event Young Artists 2012, Paa Joe and the Lion and Night of Festivals have also inspired City Arts to pursue the development of stronger international links and partnerships.

Our work with Gaylan means that our cultural links with Kurdish artists and the Kurdish community in Nottingham go back a long way and this trip was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the region and develop further work with their Ministry of Culture and Youth.

The nine-day visit began with an introductory talk to culture ministers, arts professionals and artists.  Kate gave a presentation about the work of City Arts which touched on wider issues such as the structure of the cultural sector in the United Kingdom. The audience gave very positive feedback and were interested in finding ways supports the development of cultural organisations and artists as an investment in culture for the future of the region. The new Kurdistan is growing rapidly and has many possibilities for establishing new ways of supporting the cultural life of its communities.

The information that we got from Kate’s presentation, that was really fantastic and we got a lot from it and we now understand how the British system works in terms of supporting arts and culture and their future, this is very important for us.

An audience member at the event

At the event Shane Shambhu spoke about his own work as an artist.  Later that evening  he performed two of his signature pieces Dr Jagad & Mr Haridas and Pogunilla to an audience of over 200.  The performance seemed to have an air of expectation and the audience responded to the work quietly and thoughtfully.  At the end of the performance many excited audience members came to talk to Shane and Kate and said how much they had enjoyed the work.  It had an emotional connection for some audience members and the participants that were due to attend Shane’s workshops in the following days of our visit, said that they felt inspired and ready for what was to come

I was very privileged – I have loved Indian dance for so long and very interested in their culture and that’s why for me it was very special. I have looked at Indian dance and all the theories behind it, each of the steps and movements. It would be better to do more and more!

An audience member at the event

Shane delivered workshops to 27 participants over the next two days. His individual style and South Asian dance heritage brought a dynamic approach to the workshops. The participants left the sessions hungry for more and spoke about their need for widening their experiences through continued work that they hoped we could help offer with the support of the Theatre Department.

Shane, Gaylan and Kate had a final meeting with the Theatre Department and Deputy Culture Minister, making plans to take the work forward and link in with the festivals that are held regularly in Kurdistan.  We left with lots of new ideas to build on.  We would like to thank the Theatre Department for their warmth and their openness to the work that we delivered.  It seems there are exciting times ahead.