There is a revolutionary transformation in Rojava. Life is being reorganized based on the historical values of the society. The destruction caused by capitalist modernity, colonialism, and nation-statism is gradually being repaired. The monism of the nation-state blunts the decision-making, implementation, production, and creative potential of society, and positions society as an object. In contrast, democratic confederalism’s perspective is based on creativity, diversity, and uniqueness within collectivity. All fields, from culture to art, are organized with this perspective. In this article, we will try to focus on how financial-material opportunities are created and how the concept of communality is practiced, by touching on the historical and ideological foundations of arts and cutlure organizing in Rojava. Against the hegemony of the art industry and capitalist modernity understanding of art, organizing the art of democratic modernity is undoubtedly of strategic importance for women’s freedom struggle.
Communality, Art, and Economy
Culture and art are the expression of society’s collective imagination. From the very beginning, art has functioned as an expression of holiness, a method of interpreting truth and making sense of life. Aesthetic concerns have been decisive in every aspect of life. The nourishment of the soul and the beautification of life were seen as a social need. For this, people decorated the walls of the caves and developed rituals. They interpreted their lives with a developed understanding of art. People’s lives have been enriched and strengthened by the very spirituality of the art they have created. There is a good expression of this in Ezidi mythology which says that the soul did not enter the human body until the def and shibap [musical instruments] came. In order for the soul to enter the body, the god had to send musical instruments. When they arrived, the soul entered the human body. I think this is the root of the saying “music is nourishing the soul”…
We do not see a fragmented life in the historical formation of humanity. There is a holistic perspective. How people feed themselves and how they express this are interconnected. Therefore, when we look at cave paintings, which can be considered as the first artistic production, we encounter a story with a strong aesthetic aspect. There we see an artistic form in which they narrated their lives for themselves, for others. The development of cultural rituals, the development of tools necessary to sustain life, and the organization of activities developed in paralell. Therefore, we can briefly say that artistic and economic activities overlap. Both are inherent in the organization of life. For example, thousands of statues and symbols of women have been produced on the territory of today’s Rojava, the place of the village-agricultural revolution that developed under the leadership of women. In northern Syria, there are many representations of women with musical instruments. There are representations and sculptures of a festive woman, a woman with a twan [and instrument], and a woman with a flute. The artistic expression of women’s productions and creations has been preserved via these sculptures and representations.
The communal forms of organization that survive today are our historical reality and our greatest strength. Alternatives to capitalism are being put forward everywhere, and, even more impressively, actually being actively organized and attempted. Today, we see that those who seek hardest for alternatives are those who suffer most from neoliberal capitalism. Art-economy-politics have been brought to the fore by the moral and communal values of society. The solidarity economy, the existence of community-controlled micro-local economies, is becoming increasingly important. All over the world, we encounter contemporary expressions of this historical tradition of communality. The democratic, ecological, women’s libertarian paradigm being organized in Rojava is also based on this social history.
Since the principle of self-sufficiency, solidarity and collectivity are forms that maintain their vitality in Kurdish social life, the perspective of the democratic communal economy of the revolution fits with the fabric of society. Attempts are being made to develop eco-industry and eco-agriculture based on communes, cooperatives and self-sufficiency, as opposed to monopolistic industrialism. Social benefit and meeting vital needs are being prioritized instead of maximum proft. The detachment of economic activity from life and women and the prioritizing of profit, competition, and consumption-oriented motivations are a denial of economy. Understandings that isolate the economy from other areas of life are not taken seriously. On the contrary, the economy is considered as a basic vital activity organized by the ethical and aesthetic values of society.
Exercising economic activity in Kurdistan has gained an aesthetic expression, as in other places of the world. The etymology of culture-cultivating in English, çand-çandinî in Kurdish is revealing this reality. The relationship between art and economy in society is revealed in this performance. When we look at the traditional Kurdish culture-art forms, we often see that they are performed together with economic activity.
What Kind of An Art?
Art is a political field. The artist and the work of art lead to an ideological change and transformation in society. For this reason, rulers have always wanted to use art and the artist as a tool of their power. Art was taken from the hands of women and society and brought under the control of power institutions, and it was also economically controlled and tied to strict rules.
Now, in order to talk about alternative art, it is of great importance to overcome the subject-object or the essence/content-form contradiction fueled by the life that capitalist modernity has divided into pieces. The production activities of communal societies are based on collectivism and solidarity relations both artistically and economically. Imagine the creativity and beauty of culture and arts of a world where everyone’s needs are met, based on self-sufficiency, participation, each person has her/his colours in the formation of the social life. This life can be organized with the same philosophy. Within this philosophy, art is not left to the monopoly of professionals. All components of society are involved as culture producers.
In this sense, in the areas where the Kurdistan Freedom Movement is organized, especially in Rojava, there is a struggle against the capitalist mentality that shatters the moral and communal values of society and spreads individualism, populism, false understanding of freedom and culture through art. Sociality is seen as the reason for the existence of art, and selfishness the murder of art and the artist. By rejecting the liberal, individualist, and populist understanding of capitalist modernity, the necessary working style and methods can be developed for the development, expansion, and organization of the alternative perspective of culture-art and style of democratic modernity.
Reflections Of The Historical Sociological Reality Of The Kurds On Their Art
Cultural and artistic works and products have a very important place in the Rojava revolution. To understand this, it is necessary to look at the social-historical reality of Rojava and the relationship of the Kurds with culture and art. The main elements affecting Kurdish cultural art have been the relationship with geography and nature, the moral-political elements carried over from the Neolithic, and the domination, acts of force and violence of the rulers. The conditions of the geography we lived in, which do not allow much social hierarchy and domination, and impose collectivism, are also determinants in the formation of the social culture of the Kurds. Although the plains also have an effect, it is the mountain life that leaves its mark on Kurdish dances, songs, poetry, and language. This dialectic of the Kurds with the mountain has led to the definition of the “mountain people”. In addition to their rebellious and warlike characteristics, which do not conform to a strict hierarchy, their lifestyles in harmony with nature are largely derived from their mountainous geography. They express this with their dances, songs, tales, and epics. We can observe the characteristics of their collective life in their dances (govend). On the one hand, sergovend expresses leadership, but on the other hand, the sociability that goes arm in arm and everyone adapts to the same rhythm is reflected in the govend.
On the other hand, the Kurds, who are one of the ancient peoples of the geography they live in, have been faced with the reality of constant occupation and domination. Kurds are exposed to cultural genocide. If we want to understand and comprehend Kurdish sociality and history today, we must first listen to the music of the Kurds. Music, especially dengbeji, has a very important effect on the formation of Kurdish identity and personality. Dengbeji is formed by blending truth and emotions. Dengbeji is not just a song form in this sense, it is the main means of expression used by the Kurds to convey their own history, culture, experiences, and problems. Dengbejs have such a responsibility. That’s why the first thing that comes to mind when talking about art for Kurds is music.
Music has the same meaning in Rojava’s community. Before the revolution, there were many dengbejs and artists. Old artists are quite recognizable. Especially in Afrin, art is fundamental, and society is open to it. Maybe it comes from the attachment to the land, the colorfulness of its nature. For example, it can be stated that the main work that holds the society together in Shehba today is cultural activities. Many different people live in Rojava. They have preserved their culture in their villages and cities for thousands of years. There is an artistic-cultural richness inherited from the ancestors and preserved until today. For example, there are 16 different dances in Kocharats (Koçerat-region known with nomads) alone. There are dozens of different musical genres (makam). Messiahs, Kurds, and other peoples were influenced by each other in this sense. The differences are expressed in a friendly harmony. Although it is a small area, the cultural characteristics of each city are different. There is cultural diversity and richness which has also created a culture of democracy.
The societies living here under the Baath regime, together with all their cultural differences and richnesses, were under threat. Monism was forced on society. Art was dominated by Arab chauvinism in Syria. State-affiliated art developed within the framework of the rules of the state and became a propaganda tool of the dominant system with a weak ideological aspect. For example, it is a striking example that painters are constantly forced to paint the Assad family, and sculptors are constantly forced to make busts of the Assad family. Musicians were forced to sing songs praising the Baath regime. The burning of children in Amude cinema in 13th november,1960 is still a trauma in Kurdish society. Cinema reminds them of the massacre. For example, there is an interesting example from the film commune activities. Tevçand goes to the villages to show the movie of Charlie Chaplin to the children. Some families do not want to send their children. Because they still live that fear, some of them sent just one child.
The Baath regime wanted to leave the Kurds without an identity. It destroyed art by plundering the original culture-art resources of the society. Rootlessness and alienation from their own existence formed an culture under forced ‘Arabization’.
There was standardization and rootlessness in the economic sense as well as in the artistic sense. Special policies have been developed to destroy tens of thousands of years old wheat species and to break people’s ties with the soil and nature. The relationship that people establish with seeds and soil in Kurdistan is a lively, sensitive relationship. Each type of seed has a specific name. The regime destroyed these types of seeds and forced people to use seeds produced in laboratories. It is not possible to establish an emotional bond with wheat seeds named with serial numbers such as Damascus 101. The Syrian State banned the planting of trees and crops without approval. As a result of these policies, we can say that with the exception of Afrin, land-bound patriotism (welatparezî) is weak in Rojava. For example, there is no original architecture or greening.
Art, Existence, and Resistance
On the other hand, music, cultural colours, and language has a special place in terms of the struggle to preserve its existence and cultural resistance. We can say that artists have a great influence on the formation of welatparezî in Rojava. Art has assumed a secret identity in the face of the occupation and oppression of the state. People have insisted on revealing their cultural artistic colors by singing their songs in their own language and wearing their national clothes in small events such as wedding invitations and on important days such as Newroz, thus developing a cultural resistance. The stories of people who were imprisoned and tortured for years for attending Newroz, or because of listening to tapes in Kurdish are not an exception in the recent history of Kurdistan. Therefore, culture and art in Kurdish have become an image of resistance and rebellion in itself. It has been an expression of the existence of the Kurds.
Cultural resistance in the face of cultural genocide has also given its color to the political-military struggle. The choice between a life in freedom or slavery is the essence of revolutionary culture. The revolutionary culture tradition, which started with revolutionaries such as Hozan Mizgin and Hozan Serhat, assumed an important responsibility in spreading the Kurdistan Freedom Struggle.
In Rojava, there is a sense of freedom conveyed through artistic works. Freedom emerges in harmony where all religions and peoples can live and produce together. Resistance is revealed where this harmony is meant. Freedom is the power to change. Culture and art is the field that creates this resistance, changes the story, and give an existential meaning to the Kurds. The war of existence, which we are fighting under colonialism, has always kept the interest in the field of art alive. Since art is not handled independent from the freedom struggle, it cannot be approached as a commodity for consumption or private property. It is strange to be approached like this. Artists who put their fame forward and do not put their art at the service of cultural resistance and revolutionary culture are not long-lasting in public.
Rojava is being invaded. Historic buildings are destroyed. People are being murdered. Houses are being destroyed. There is a reality of war. There is also the reality of revolution. So, construction and war, destruction are intertwined. The artistic productions that come out of these people are also shaped according to this situation. We cannot consider art in isolation from the process. Depending on the moment, the artist interprets the process from her/his own perspective. The themes of songs, poems, films, and plays are revolution, resistance, and struggle. Although there are those who produce outside of this current political atmosphere, this does not change the general aura.
An Art Without Capital?
The capitalist system has taken the means of artistic production under its own dominance in order to distance society from art. Huge sums of money are spent on the culture and arts industry just so that a different product does not come out of this system. Culture and art have been transformed from being a social production, a field of existence, into an industrial market. With processes such as intellectual property rights and distribution rights, the fluidity of culture and art has been imprisoned in capitalist law.
The works produced with large sums of money may arouse admiration, but their effect is short-lived. They are not permanent, because they are not rooted in society, not based on society. In capitalist modernity, the relationship of art with society is crippled. Even though it is claimed that art cannot be made without capital, there are art products that are highly influential and embraced by the society with very low budgets or without spending any money. The theatre, cinema products, and splendid venues exhibited with millions of dollars are all put forward to block the natural art that society has been doing for thousands of years. Natural art forms that have persisted for thousands of years are being devalued: for example, embroidery and drawing, which women have been dealing with for thousands of years, such as dengbeji. Naturally, art is free of cost, the important thing is its connection with life, society, and nature, creativity. But now artworks that have no ideological meaning and are not interconnected with life are sold at high prices. In this industrial art system, the poor artists and the small works do not get a share, the rich get richer.
Art that integrates with its vital meaning is made without relying on money. This does not mean that the artist does not create the opportunities to meet her/his needs to survive. Nor does it mean that no money is needed to produce the artistic product or work. Solidarity, communal spirit, collective style, and power of meaning in democratic modernity are the main determining power of artworks. After these, artistic activities can be carried out with zero cost or very low budgets. Although there are institutions such as the artists and writers union in the autonomous administration system in Rojava, no special institutionalization has been made in the context of the solidarity economy. Because solidarity and collectivity are inherent in the commune system itself. Moreover, since the people have a historical sensitivity when it comes to art, and art is a form of resistance of the Kurdish existence, relying on the people’s means in terms of commune style, finance, and logistics is not considered strange. It can be said that the most successful examples of communes in Rojava came from the field of culture and art.
Below, I will try to convey from first-hand narratives the historical development and operation-production style of cultural and artistic studies in Rojava. When we evaluate the evolution of cultural and artistic activities in Rojava, we can consider them basically in two periods:
The Period in Between 1980-2000
As of the 1980s, the effects of the revolutionary culture that emerged under the influence of the freedom movement in Rojava began to spread rapidly. Groups such as Koma tolhildan, Koma botan, koma cudi, koma agiri were established in these years. We can call the post-1983 period the period of kom (group) in Kurdish music. These kom’s had an effect that also nurtured participation in the struggle. Many people in the kom’s were also martyred in the struggle.
Cultural studies in this period are also shaped according to the characteristics of the regions. For example, in Kobane, which has a more closed and feudal society, women’s participation in cultural and artistic activities is lower. However, after the revolution, this was overcome. But in Afrin, which has a more open social structure, there is no obstacle in front of women. Women continued their work even after they married.
During this period, the works are carried out in the houses in great secrecy. There were no institutions. In order not to be caught by the regime forces, they secretly go to the villages at night and prepare Newroz in the basements. Newroz is very important. There is special pressure from the regime forces. The kom members who will take the stage at Newroz are brought to the stage secretly, then their clothes are changed and they mingle with the public. Culture is considered as the mirror, the soul of society. There is actually a culture of resistance. Kurds consider folk culture as a method of existence. This is the reason why they did not give up despite all the pressure. Because they see themselves in newroz, these songs express them. Newroz is one of the most important events that feed the struggle.
The financing of the works carried out in this period is provided by the aid collected from the public and the members of the kom. All work carried out in this period of the struggle is carried out in a communal spirit. The activities of the people in their ordinary lives are reconsidered with a revolutionary spirit. Harvest times are evaluated to collect money needed for the activities. The collected donations are transferred to fund arts and culture.
The people are generally poor. Despite this, they work hard to contribute. People go to the lentil harvest together, the harvested product is sold and transferred to the Movement’s coffers. Culture leads this work, which is carried out at harvest time. For example, 100 people gather and work with songs and dances and collect the product. Direct support from the wealthier is also sought. These people support either olives or wheat or money. Kom members both sing and offer financial support because the aim is not to sing but to reveal your own existence by singing in Kurdish. Weddings are also important tools in terms of conveying revolutionary messages and collecting financial support. During this period, kom members are invited to weddings. Kurds have a tradition, money is given to the drum and zurna player who play
s at weddings. This money is not demanded, everyone gives voluntarily. These coins were collected and transferred to the coffers of the culture. Certain needs of the members who were not in good condition were met from this.
Culture leads the way, not just to raise money but to help the poor. Sometimes under the leadership of culture, large groups gather and go to work, not only to earn income but also to harvest for the poor or those who have no one to work. When helping the poor, everyone brings their food from home, a natural table is formed, and a meal is eaten together. Thus, people see that culture is not a separate entity from themselves. People see that culture is not just a song, but a life, intertwined with society. These gatherings create a mentality in the people. They also see that culture is not a work carried out with money or financial means. Just as defence is everywhere, so is culture. Culture is the field on which the revolution grows. The foundations of the cultural revolution are laid in this period.
From 2000s to Present
After the revolution, there was an explosion in cultural activities. The people mostly flow to defence and cultural works.
After the revolution, the people seized the centres that the regime once turned into centres of cultural extermination. Courses are opened in these centres. Some help is given to the educators in order to meet some of their needs. This money is also collected through the symbolic contributions of those who attend the courses. Every institution has a coffer. Works continue with the spirit of the 80s. This culture of solidarity always continues, not out of necessity, but because the people know and adopt this culture.
Culture leads in all areas of life, in marches, condolences, martyr ceremonies, with local clothes, songs, drums, and zurnas. For example, all the members of the culture gather and go to clean the cemeteries. Culture takes its place in boycott campaigns, cleaning campaigns, and helping the poor everywhere. As the society see this, more become
s close to the culture. Women lead unconditionally in all these processes.
Before the revolution, conditions were different. Everyone also has to work. Then there are no institutions, there is a rehearsal once a week, the rest of the time everyone works in a different job. After the revolution, the living conditions in Rojava differed, the needs differed. Now, since everything belongs to the people, there is no such thing as working in the regime institutions. After the self-government was established in 2014, the culture and arts board was among the first established. The cultural centres that were confiscated by the revolution established during the Baath period are attached to the cultural council. In this period, the Cultural Board, directorates, theatre, cinema, and archive departments are formed. Tevçand, kevana zerin are formed. Culture and art communes are established. Currently, activities such as the Herekol book fair, Osman Sabri literature festival, Women’s culture, and arts festival, Children’s festival, and the Rojava children’s orchestra established in 2016 are carried out under the culture and arts directorate. Painting exhibitions and Rojava art meetings are held every two years. Projects from other institutions are also supported, whether they are included in the autonomous administration or not. For example, Reading Garden is such a project. It is a project of the Rojava Intellectuals Union, it has a library of 4000 books. There are many kom’s. Assyrians, Arabs, Messiahs… Sometimes joint festivals are held. All works of art enjoy the same opportunities without discrimination. Tevçand also takes its place in this system as a unique movement.
These newly formed institutions also work collectively. No one is a professional. They work together and progress together. For example, all members come to the institution two days a week, the institution is cleaned from top to bottom. From cleaning the institution to welcoming guests, from the preparation of the stage decor to the sewing of the costumes, everything is done collectively.
But institutions need to find a way to finance themselves. An income is needed because some of the employees (activists) are given symbolic wages or because it is necessary to buy technical equipment. Each commune unit issues tickets for events such as concerts, albeit symbolic ones, to create their own finances. The opening of the studio department of Hunergeha Welat also makes a financial contribution. A small amount of money from the clips uploaded to You Tube, from the distribution or from the courses opened is collected in the general coffer of the culture, then distributed to the communes and institutions according to their needs. The institution that creates and coordinates this balance is the Cultural Board. A field or garden is given to some institutions, the land is cultivated and the income from there is transferred to the coffer. Although it is aimed to expand this model and to establish art cooperatives, this has not been realized yet.
Cinema is developing professionally as a new field for Rojava. It will take a while before cinema is recognized. Cross-border solidarity is needed in order to produce cinema which requires more technical aspects. So you can’t finance the cinema solely on public donations. However, by using existing facilities, films can be made with budgets that are much smaller than industrial cinema standards. The shooting of the movie Ji bo Azadiye, ‘The End Will Be Spectacular’, is an example of this. For example, because actors are chosen from among the public, budgets are not allocated for actors and extras: people see this film as their own movie. The people of Kobane take many filmmakers to their homes and meet their personal needs such as food and cleaning. Explosions, streets, scenery, everything that is necessary for the film, people do it themselves. This cuts the budget by almost half. In fact, the culture we talked about for the 80s and 90s continues. While wheat was harvested in the past, a wall is built for the movie, or a meal is prepared and brought to the movie set, and large tables are set up. Children, young people, women, everyone participates in the shooting process. Apart from this, all institutions of the Self-Administration participate in proportion to their power. Self-defence forces are involved. Some techniques that are not available are provided with solidarity from Europe. In Kobane, some rich people also give aid, a small part is transferred from the coffers of the general movement, a part is met by the means of the people. Thus, a balance is achieved. That’s 70 percent of it. As the spiritual dimension of the culture is provided, material opportunities are also created. It is also important that the technical equipment used for a movie belongs to the cinema commune and is shared between institutions. All business in Europe, for which you have to pay by the hour, is carried out in the spirit of collective solidarity.
Although there are many shortcomings, the disintegration of cultural activities is not allowed. We can give the Leylun festival held in Shehba as another example. Although it had many shortcomings locally, it was organized with a spirit that left outsiders in awe. The Leylun festival was held while the mortars were exploding next to the festival area with a chain of solidarity, where those who have a computer bring their computer and those who have a camera bring their camera. Another inspiring experience is Rojava Film Festival. The first Rojava Film Festival was held on the 13th November,2016. This festival continues to fight for the social reconstruction of the Rojava and for the democratization of art. The first year the Festival received 40 films. After four years 3150 films were submitted! In 2019, because of the war in Serêkaniyê, the festival was held online and cross-border. More than 20 countries opened the Rojava International Film Festival in more than 50 locations. November 13th was a unique solidarity example for the International Film Festivals.
Those who come to Rojava and see this are affected. When they return to their places, they try to do something. Solidarity is developing. Kurds living in Europe and Kurdish artists are making a lot of effort again. For example, a truckload of instruments is collected and sent to Kobane. Or for the festival held in Şehba (Shehba) a man from Afrin who has lived in Europe for 40 years, is impressed, says he wants to help and collects and sends money. It’s not about money, but when it creates a soul, it flows like a fountain and finds its way.
Works such as Hunergeha Welat, Komuna Film A Rojava, Pargin organize festivals, concerts, and screenings. There is a lot of interest from the outside. This feeds art spiritually but also creates financial opportunities in the long run. It generates an income. For example, a lot of funding is obtained from the screenings of the movie Ji Bo Azadiyê. 12-13 million people watch a Hunergeha Welat’s clip, it’s both morally and financially supportive. The studies here also created motivation and a model throughout Kurdistan. It is not limited to Rojava. Pargin, for example, works on keeping the traditional Kurdish culture alive: there is now a desire to realize a pargin-like project in the Başurê Kurdistan (South Kurdistan). Delegations from the Culture Movement go to many countries.
The infrastructure laid in the 80s provides this today. This is how the cultural spirit of today was formed. The father, who was an artist in the culture at the time, brings his daughter to cultural communes today. He raised his daughter in this spirit. Because the spirit of culture in Rojava is rooted in the society. It’s a breathing tube.
The Communal Art of Democratic Modernity Versus the Industrial Art of Capitalist Modernity
We can state that there is an insurmountable contradiction and an intense struggle between the understanding of the culture of capitalist modernity and the revolutionary culture of democratic modernity. These contradictions are also experienced in Rojava. Now there is an attempt to foreground a different culture through channels like Vin tv and KPD. They are trying to spread modernism. They try to highlight individual, populist, materialistic art. However, the artist whose spirit is formed in revolutionary culture is not affected by this. Because the culture of solidarity, communal spirit, is strong. Everyone is equal in kom [communal spirit]. It creates a balance. There is spirituality, perfection, philosophy. The artist knows her/himself, s/he knows where the spirit that makes her/his art possible and reveals her/his creativity comes from. Capitalism puts art in a constant race, putting the content, message, and meaning into the background by highlighting the budget. It is commonplace in the industrial art sector to sell art products. It is normal not to go to a concert or shoot a movie for which you will not earn money, but it is considered shameful to write and sell songs in Rojava. It is a shame to try to make money on the values of the revolution and the people. In democratic modernity, art is not for money or personal fame; It is made to reveal the aesthetic expression of sociality in order to reveal the meaning power of life.
In the following section, we will remark on some art communes in Rojava. Institutions such as Komuna film a rojava, hunergeha welat, pargin, teatra sarya baran are trying to preserve and develop the original culture. While organizing their works, they re-establish the art-society relationship by overturning the boundaries drawn by capitalist modernity and the rules it has set. They are also trying to create an alternative in terms of the way cinema, theatre and music work. Because they rely on the principle of self-sufficiency, this enables them to realize their projects with very low budgets by the standards of the art industry.
Komuna Film a Rojava:
Cinema was banned during the Regime period. Sound, picture, documentation was forbidden. In other words, there was no infrastructure for the art of cinema in Rojava. Şero Hindê mentions this period as this:
“We went from village to village, looking for young people interested in cinema. We got to know each other by organizing workshops and trying to learn the ABCs of cinema. And we started our work with movie screenings. We made original movies, like Charlie Chaplin, went from village to village and watched them. We named ourself as Komuna Film a Rojava.
Now we share the opportunities we have in our cultural centres with children and adults. People become the subject of the art we make, a part of the work we do. We are actually like an art academy. We do work for the people, with the people, that carries the spirit of our culture. We do not want to make films that our mothers do not feel, find themselves, nor watch. Kurdish society is a society that keeps the communal spirit alive, there is collectivity. We wouldn’t have been able to shoot films without the public’s support and participation. Since they see it as a part of themselves, they do whatever they can when we go to them.
As a second step, we asked them to film their own stories and lives in order to develop technically. They trained for a year at the Academy of Martyr Herekol. Then they became members of the commune. There were filmmakers who came from many places and supported us. This was an effort to create an alternative cinema, an alternative culture in Rojava.”
First, they shot short films, document films, then feature films. The scenarios and ideas were always created and discussed collectively. All the work was done collectively. The screenwriter cooked, the director acted as a driver. The whole society gathered around the commune. Whatever the topic of the scenario is, the subjects of that topic become actors and employees of the film set. None of those involved in the production process have made any financial demands, because art was done in a different spirit. It wasn’t done for money. They wanted to be involved because they reflected their own lives, their pain, their dreams. “We do our job to make our dreams come true.” Because the burden is heavy, many commune members wanted to continue the work. Many artists from other pieces are also going and participating in their works. The commune also supports directors from abroad, the other parts of Kurdistan. The commune wants to reflect a deep, beautiful, and sensitive image of the revolution beyond the naked images of the news channels. They don’t aim to reflect the war. Artists from many parts of the world supported these communes sometimes with their knowledge, sometimes with technique, sometimes with social links…
Teatra Sarya Baran
The group takes its name from two revolutionary women who fought for the Kurdistan Freedom Struggle. Sarya and Baran are two Kurdish women actors and revolutionaries. When Istanbul NCM (Mesopotamia Cultural Center) was established, they took their place in the Jiyana Nu Theater group.
Sarya Baran Theater is an independent theater group whose actors are all women. It is the first women’s theatre group in Kurdistan. Not only are the members of this group all women but also their plays are based on women’s and children’s own stories. The director of the group, the clothes, make-up and costume, decor, and lighting are prepared with the ideas and hands of the women. Four women founded the group after 6 months of theatre training. Their first plays appeared with plays such as ‘Jina Bi Tenê’, ‘Diqîrim’, ‘Aştî (di)Baskê Çûkê De Ye’ and a children’s play called ‘Diziya Bexçe’.
Sarya Baran Theater has now become a theatre school for women. They won the ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Actress’ awards at the Martyr Yekta Herekolê Festival in 2020. Sarya Golan the founder of the Theatre is saying “Woman has an existence, how she interacts in life, how she loves, how she gets angry, how she creates and acts, she presents her whole existence and struggle to people aesthetically. The actress is not far from her life, her struggle in life and art is the same as life and struggle.”
Pargîn: Analysis and preservation of Rojava heritage Pargin center in Koceran region / Rojava
Cultural studies in Northern and Eastern Syria have been developing rapidly in the last 2 years. The atmosphere created by the revolution shows itself in the region’s tunes, movies, TV series, and clothing styles. Within the scope of cultural studies, an institution named ‘Pargîn’ was established for the first time in the Deşta Sûsê village of Dêrik within the scope of the Culture and Art Committee. Pargîn means digging around the tents. With this method, the items inside the tent are protected from rainwater. This name was given to the institution in order to preserve the traditional culture. About a year ago, 25 people, mostly Koçers, started working on the establishment of Pargîn.
“As part of the 5-month study, we selected people with an interest in culture. Especially since women take serious responsibility for the preservation of culture, the number of women has increased. We train people in technique, research, cinema, and culture. The Koçer culture still exists. Research can be done on it. We may open branches in different places in the future. This is done not only for the Kurdish people but also for the Arab and Syriac peoples. We have a project to make these institutions Kurdistani. We will be in contact with all institutions” says one of the founders of Pargin.
Rojda, who works as a cameraman at Pargîn, says, “We are currently doing koçerî. We are living witnesses of culture. My mother is involved in folklore studies. I was born in the village of Besta Sûsê. Koçerî is in our family tradition. We are trying to promote our own culture. As capitalism advances, our culture lags behind. We are getting ahead of that.”
Kevana Zerin (Golden Crescet)
It is one of the cultural institutions for women’s self-recognition, empowerment through culture and arts in Northern and Eastern Syria. It is a project that nurtures traditions and breathes new life into them by shaping the future from the strong roots of the past.
Kevana Zerin initiated projects, established committees, held conferences, and established many centres across Northern and Eastern Syria. In these centres, courses on cultural and artistic education and the development of the Kurdish language and literature are given to women. The aim of these courses is to enrich the mosaic of Syrian languages and cultures through art, to combat and revitalize the capitalist exploitation of art and culture.
Kevana Zerin is led by a community of young women who have changed their lives and self-reflective transformations during the revolution process.