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“The Kurdish Sisterhood”: where Poetry Meets Music

(From Left to Right) Shina Saeed, Shie Raouf, Choman Hardi and Bejan Matur
(From Left to Right) Shina Saeed, Shie Raouf, Choman Hardi and Bejan Matur
(From Left to Right) Shina Saeed, Shie Raouf, Choman Hardi and Bejan Matur

London- Majalla

“The Kurdish Sisterhood” is a mesmerizing evening of music and poetry performed by five Kurdish women artists and organised by the Exiled Lit Cafe at the Poetry Cafe. A London based organisation, The Exiled Writers Inc brings together artists from repressive regimes and war-torn situations as well as embracing migrants and exiled artists.

On the eve of 3rd July, 2017, Shie Raouf (a Committee member of the EWI and the host for the evening) and Jennifer Langar (the Director of the EWI) organised an evening of poetry and music performed by the Kurdish Artists Choman Hardi, Tara Jaff, Bejan Matur, Shina Saeed and Shie Raouf.

The evening began with Tara Jaff, a prominent Kurdish musician and harpist, who played two instrumental pieces from her own repertoire in her unique style. Tara’s soul lifting musical performance of the Harp was in essence music that healed, soothed and comforted the heart, soul and mind of the audience.

Then, Choman Hardi, a renowned published Kurdish Poet, Academic, Activist and former Chairwoman of the EWI performed her poems “At the border, 1979”, “Before you leave”, “Dibs camp, women’s prison”, “Dispute over a mass grave”, “The 7th wedding invitation” and concluded her performance by reading out her latest poem which she had recently written in response to criticisms by some students accusing her of hating all men. Choman’s poetry expressed the tragedies endured by the Kurds during Saddam Hussien’s ruling, evoking a wave of sighs and that echoed throughout the space to completely shifting the mood of the audience by reading her poems that struck the audience with laughter and joy. Much could be said to describe her abilities as a writer and Academic, but to say the least, she is a ray of hope and a role model for Kurdish women and the youth.

Karwan Jamal and Bejan Matur
Karwan Jamal and Bejan Matur

Bejan Matur, a multi award winning Kurdish Poet and Journalist then read her poems in Turkish and Kurdish from her Poetry Translations Center book. All her poems were translated by Jen Hadfields into English and out by Yvonne Green (a Published poet and Committee member of EWI) that evening. Bejan started off with the poem titled “If this is a Lament ( Bir ağıtsa bu) which she described as one of her key poems from her latest book called ‘The last mountain’ which she states is “about my people and their tragedies’ as well as being about “the Kurdish women’s traditions of the elegies’.

Bejan, then read “The Ceremonial Robes” (Tören giysileri) which focused on human tragedies, ‘perhaps history is a mistake says the poet, humankind is a mistake says god and to correcting himself brings sorrow, nothing but sorrow’.

Her poem ‘Every woman knows her own tree’ (her kadın kendi ağacını tanır) was about the traditions of her female relatives when they were living in the highland as nomads highlighting issues such as womans’ love and nature. Finally, Bejan concluded with a love poem in Kurdish called “Wind” (Ba).

The audience at the Poetry Cafe
The audience at the Poetry Cafe

Bejan, shared her struggles of being unable to express herself in Kurdish (her mother tongue) when writing poetry because of the fact that she was educated in Turkish and Turkey banned Kurdish from being taught in schools. Her story of the first time she told her mother that she had finally written a poem in Kurdish was a testimony of her triumph over her lingual struggle. Bejan took the audience on a journey with her when she expressed the pride her mother had felt to have witnessed such a moment for the first time and the audience were so moved by this heart warming story that they began cheering and applauding.

With the heightened emotions of the performers and audience, Tara Jaff decided to sing in Kurdish accompanying the Harp, a melody she composed and arranged to a poem written by Choman Hardi, “Mestbun”, (Intoxication), an ode to wine. Her angelic voice resonated throughout the building creating an ambiance of pure bliss and ecstasy.

Shina Saeed, a British born Kurdish writer, artist and activist, fighting against the subject of so-called honour killings was the youngest of the the ‘Kurdish Sisterhood” performers. Her painting “Peacock” (Taus) was chosen for the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, where she hand painted statements from men who had killed female members of their family. The same painting was selected by the Exiled Lit Cafe, as the image for the poster of the ‘Kurdish Sisterhood’ event. Shina’s focused theme for her poetry was on the issue of Honour Killings, centralised within the Kurdish community and women she personally knew who were murdered as a result of Honour killings. Shina performed her poems ‘My body screaming but in silent mode’, ‘Gun shot’, ‘Where is the honour in killing’, ’Blinded’ and ‘Mama don’t cry’ which she had written the night before the event, based around the experiences of Yazidi women. The audience were horrified when Shina retold the barbaric accounts of how the women were murdered by their male relatives. Shina concluded her performance by speaking out passionately against Honor killings and left the stage by saying that “until the day ÷ die, until my last breath, I will continue to fight against these horrific crimes and injustices committed against women’.

Tara Jaff
Tara Jaff

The last ‘Kurdish Sisterhood’ performance was by Shie Raouf, another Kurdish performance poet based in the UK. Shie was one of the the key organizers and host for the ‘Kurdish Sisterhood’ event held at the poetry Cafe. Her poetry takes on a more theatrical form, which combines acting and reading together. Her poem ‘Freedom’ personifies freedom in an act of defiance to highlight the fact that she is now living in London and not back home. She is no longer bound by the traditional attitudes held towards Kurdish women and living fearlessly because she no longer runs ‘for her life’, every time she sees an ‘airplane flying above’ her head. Her poems, ‘Numbers’ and ‘A room in Mosul’ expressed the savage crimes committed against the Yazidi Kurdish Women and young Yazdi girls. Shie also perfomed ‘the Art of Cutting Meat’ which dealt with the issue of FGM/FGC (female genital mutilation and cutting) and her last poem titled ‘Lines’ was a poem that was written to highlight her resistance to the discrimination she faces as a Kurdish woman living in the UK; where she finds a voice in her poem and speaks out against the East and West for wanting to mould her into a shape that best fits their attitudes and values.

Finally, the ‘Kurdish Sisterhood’ concluded the evening with an open mic session enabling members of the audience to also perform on stage of which included, Yvonne Green, Mohamed Tofiq Ali, FairuzYousif, Steven Watts and Barbara Cumberland.

The ‘Kurdish Sisterhood’ thanked each and every member of the audience for attending that evening. They also thanked Karwan Jamal, the Representative of the Kurdish Regional Government, and Shamim Azad (EWI Committe Member) for their attendance and support.

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