Post War Art and Culture Festival – Suly, Iraq 2009

Programme   |   The Artists   |   Symposium   |   Sulaymaniyah City   |   Iraqi Kurdistan   |   Iraq

Photos: Mark Terry

7-9 November 2009

A partnership between ArtRole, Khak Press and Media Centre Iraqi-Kurdistan
The Post War Festival ended on Monday 9th November after 3 days celebration of Arts and Culture. The Festival took place in The Red Jail, Saddam Hussein’s security building in the city of Sulaymaniyah and included seminars, talks and a symposium. The festival exhibited artwork by Iraqi, British and US artists and hosted presentations by British arts organisations.

Delegates from Iran, Turkey, UK, USA, Iran, Egypt, Spain, Sweden, and Germany attended as well as representatives from the United Nations and NGOs in Iraq.
An internationally acclaimed installation 20:50 by renowned British sculptor Richard Wilson RA was shown for the first time in the Middle East. Well known USA photography artist Susan Meiselas photographic exhibition with workshops and lectures or Memory Game performance involving students.

The event created a unique platform and opportunity for Iraqi and British artists to experience working and exhibiting together. It provided a highly visible venue for Iraqi people to engage directly with contemporary art. The event was attended by young people and their teachers from schools and colleges across the country.

Feedback from participants:
Richard Wilson, UK; “The trip for some was some eye opener of a trip and greatly enjoyed all aspects of the 9 days. Extraordinary that we met such high powered people and had such coverage on TV”

Nancy Buchanan, USA: “Working with ArtRole has given me many wonderful experiences”

Anne Bean, UK: “A magnificent and complex experience that has left me full of questions”

Clear Charnley, UK: “I had a wonderful time in Kurdistan and returned to my own country with memories of the generosity of our hosts, the warmth and kindness of the people I met and the beauty of the countryside…… We artists flourish an exchange of ideas, which is why it is so important that we travel to meet each other face to face…..there is much to learn from each other”

ArtRole supporters – PostWar Art & Culture Festival 2009

Foreign & Commonwealth Office – British Embassy, Iraq
United States of America Embassy in Iraq
Khak Press and Media Centre, Iraqi Kurdistan
Asia Oil Company
BISI – British Institute for the Study of Iraq

About the Venue

The Post War Festival is taking place at Saddam Hussein’s Red Jail – a vast 3000 square metres cinderblock complex of cells once used by the Ba’ath regime to incarcerate, torture and murder Kurds. The building has been turned into a museum and gallery to preserve and display Kurdish cultural history. The torture chambers and solitary confinement cells in this ‘red’ compound have earned their name by virtue of the red paint that coats the facade of the buildings.

Artrole’s visit to the Red Jail, March 2009

Visiting the museum is like entering army barracks from Saddam’s bygone era; walls are lined with tanks, armored vehicles and various types of artillery evoking the days when this fortress was monitored and surrounded by a powerful and brutal security force. Saddam Hussein made a point of photographing his victims and there are many images taken during torture and just before execution, as well as photographs taken by Sulaymaniyah citizens during Kurdistan’s 1991 uprising against Saddam.

Beatings and shock treatment were used torture victims, sometimes over a period of many months – children often being tortured to extract information from their parents.

This website contains accounts of victims who spent time in the red jail

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