June 5, 2010 at 10:01 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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ART IS ACTIVISM. Culture, Language and Place


By Lahib Jaddo

My cultural roots rise from northern Iraq.  I am Turkumani I was born and raised in this Islamic Culture. Thirty years ago I was transplanted to America. I am an artist. My paintings are an expression and a search for an affirmation of my heritage.

The Turkmen of Iraq were always the privileged ones in northern Mesopotamia during the Ottoman rule because of their common Turkish language. World War I defeated the Ottomans and the Arabs took power.  Turkmen became second class citizens and their language was systematically taken away. This act was continued in Saddam’s regime.  After the demise of Saddam and the Bath party, the Kurds replaced all the other oppressors to continue negating Turkman identity in Iraq.

Turkish language continues to be spoken in Turkmen homes, but in the decades since the language ban of 1923, generations of Turkmen became illiterate to the written language.  The mother tongue was spoken not written or read (except secretly).  The decision of Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey after WWI) to write Turkish in Latin script, modernized Turkey and disconnected her from other Turkic groups in the east (including Iraqi Turkmen).

In my paintings architecture is a cultural signifier with multiple meanings in history, politics, and personal identity.  The human figure is juxtaposed on the cityscape to create a dialogue. The absence of architecture exaggerates the sense of exile or lack of belonging.

The Turkish text written in the Arabic script is the language I claim.  The paintings are animated with poetry, songs, or stories from the Turkumani culture.

Among the most important cultural expressions of a people are its art, language and architecture, I use all these in order to reclaim, recreate and assert Turkumaniness.



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