Jour­nal­ist and artist Zehra Doğan, incar­cer­at­ed in the Type E prison in Diyarbakır (Amed),  addressed a suc­cinct mes­sage to Jin News on the role of Art in the fight against dom­i­na­tion. Jin News is a news agency focused on women and staffed sole­ly by women jour­nal­ists and edi­tors, in the tra­dic­tion of JINHA which was banned and shut down by decree on Octo­ber 30 2016. Zehra was one of its co-founders.

Only Art and Women can annihilate the hegemonies

The efforts of pow­er to bend soci­ety under its yoke are per­pet­u­at­ed through poli­cies of open or hid­den vio­lence, through the use of notions such as democ­ra­cy, jus­tice, law, deflect­ed into virus anes­thetiz­ing indi­vid­u­als. Not con­tent with jail­ings,  destruc­tions, occu­pa­tions, loot­ings, wars, mas­sacres, pow­er con­tin­ues, thanks to the age-old class sys­tem, in for­mat­ting brains and cre­at­ing unsus­pect­ing slaves march­ing in step accord­ing to their times.   The share of human­i­ty obsti­nate­ly fac­ing up to this is insuf­fi­cient giv­en such vio­lence. High inten­si­ty vio­lence rules today, in the face of which we must resist with the great­est clar­i­ty, say­ing “no” in a loud and clear voice.   And one of the major ways of say­ing “no” is through Art.

From ancient times onward, the gods of hege­mo­ny, strik­ing down on soci­ety through the hand of city-states of Sumer­ian monar­chies, put Art under the yoke first, because Art was what they feared the most. Jean-Jacques Rousseau says, “Civil­i­sa­tion killed Art”. The Sumer­ian priests, while putting an end to the Neolith­ic peri­od and enslav­ing women, did not fail to monop­o­lize Art focussed on women. The Sume­ri­ans monop­o­lized artis­tic inven­tions and cre­ations from peri­ods that had pre­ced­ed them by thou­sands of years — inven­tions and cre­ations belong­ing to a peri­od of free­dom from gen­res, paint­ing, sculp­tures, memo­ri­als, archi­tec­ture and urban­ism, columns, domes, land­scapes, the wheel, medecine, orna­ments, embroi­dery,   epics, tales. They appro­pri­at­ed them. Yet they pro­duced noth­ing new, sim­ply per­fect­ed and domes­ti­cat­ed exist­ing cre­ations and inventions.

Art and power cannot live together

We can eas­i­ly dis­cov­er that the inven­tions con­sid­ered as pri­ma­ry by his­to­ri­ans belong in fact to the neolith­ic age or ear­li­er. Which nat­u­ral­ly leads us to agree with Rousseau. The Sume­ri­ans hard­ly invent­ed any­thing, they were con­tent with improv­ing. This means that pow­er and Art can nev­er live togeth­er! This same point of view was defend­ed by Abdul­lah Öcalan : “When we look at his­to­ry, we real­ize that the occur­rence and gen­er­al­iza­tion of inven­tions and dis­cov­er­ies between the years 6000–4000 BC, a time when the State did not exist, did not last once the Sumer­ian city-states were put in place, and in the peri­ods fol­low­ing. Pro­duc­tions in that 5 000 long peri­od (from 6000 BC onward), are extreme­ly rare, almost nonex­is­tent. Although inven­tive­ness went through an awak­en­ing between 1600–1900 AD, it has not been suf­fi­cient­ly remark­able and lasting.” 

* Note : Following this quote, she refers to a title from Öcalan’s prison writings, more specifically from “Libérer la vie – La révolution des femmes” (Freeing life – the women’s revolution). In order to complete the necessarily lapidary nature of the quote, refer to page 16 of the work “The Neolithic Age” Use the opportunity to set aside this link, for this work is essential to understand Öcalan’s political and intellectual journey).

In the cur­rent pow­er sys­tems, the same mind­set con­tin­ues under dif­fer­ent masks, pur­su­ing its efforts in main­tain­ing Art under its yoke.

A revolutionary attitude is necessary

The State attempts to make the artist depen­dent through fund­ing or pub­lic ser­vice open­ings. In this way it weak­ens or elim­i­nates every­thing that might appear as a threat to its integri­ty. Because it knows that the most impor­tant pow­er capa­ble of anni­hi­lat­ing its own dom­i­na­tion can only come through the strug­gle of Art! This is why the fact of prac­tic­ing Art under con­straint, pro­duced in a vicious cir­cle, can only pro­duce arti­fi­cial, repet­i­tive results. The artist act­ing as Pow­er’s min­ion, no longer think­ing freely, can­not cre­ate. There­fore, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary atti­tude is necessary.

Creative women made invisible

The fact there are so few women artists is not an acci­dent. Their vis­i­bil­i­ty is cen­sored. Women born from the woman-cen­tered peri­od that gave birth to Art have no longer found cre­ative spaces for thou­sands of years. This is no acci­dent either, giv­en this nasty world led by sneak­ing poli­cies of hegemony.

Final­ly, if the peo­ples of the Mid­dle-East in par­tic­u­lar have now reached the point of no longer being able to pro­duce Art and are con­demned by the nor­ma­tive notion that Art belongs to Europe or the Unit­ed States, this is not an acci­dent either.

This aris­es from the fact that the hege­monies, the strongest ide­o­log­i­cal tem­plates, self-des­ig­nate as the cen­ter of Art. And yet, Art grew up on Mid­dle-East­ern soil. And the cre­ations of an entire plan­et can­not be restrict­ed to a sin­gle spot. The Mid­dle-East is the most impor­tant land in the His­to­ry of Art. The Epic of Gil­gamesh (full text avail­able HERE), poet­ry, cuneiform writ­ing, laws, med­ical recipes, epic songs, sculp­tures, paint­ings, and numer­ous cre­ations and inven­tions were born and evolved in these lands.

Through our roots, let’s take our destiny in hand

These lands that hege­monies attempt to emp­ty of their con­tents through the virus of war, loot­ing and the dis­ease of inte­grism, are described as back­ward. In doing so, the pow­er­ful use a fig leaf behind which to hide their loot­ing. Thou­sands of years ago, the theft began by that of the mytholo­gies, the sci­ences and art. This is well-known. More recent­ly, researchers lead­ing digs car­ried away their find­ings to their respec­tive coun­tries. Mid­dle East­ern works are dis­played in their muse­ums, in the Lou­vre, the British Muse­um… And we admire our own his­to­ry there for a few min­utes, after wait­ing in long lines and pay­ing out our mon­ey. When ISIS attacked the muse­um in Irak, we all expe­ri­enced sad­ness. Then, learn­ing that the orig­i­nals were in Europe, we were flab­ber­gast­ed. And when the ancient town of Palmyra was destroyed, most of us said “If only the works had been pro­tect­ed in Europe…” but we did not ask our­selves what had gen­er­at­ed the birth of ISIS and sim­i­lar organizations…

The artists of Kur­dis­tan and of the Mid­dle East must nev­er stop pro­duc­ing. And we must do so through nour­ish­ment from the lands that gave us life through their main arter­ies. Art is work for harsh times. For Art, the life of a dervish is required. “Hege­mones” with an insa­tiable appetite for blood and exploita­tion can only be anni­hi­lat­ed by Art and women.

Guest colom­nist
Zehra Doğan
Amed Gaol, Novem­ber 2017

Cov­er illustration :

©Zehra Doğan. Acrylic on can­vas 108 x 160 cm. The paint­ing rep­re­sents the god Ner­gal, and the god­dess Ishtar. The news­pa­per head­lines men­tion the chil­dren killed in the Kur­dish towns in Turkey. This paint­ing is part of the exhi­bi­tion of “Escaped Works” tour­ing in Europe. It appears in the book Les yeux grands ouverts (Eyes Wide Open) on pages 84–85.

Français : Kedis­tan • Zehra Doğan : Femmes et Art con­tre pou­voir et dom­i­na­tion Cliquez ici
Kur­dî: Jin News • Zehra Dogan:Hêza ku zîh­niyeta mêr tine bike huner e
Türkçe: Jin News • Zehra Doğan: Erk zih­niyeti yok ede­cek güç sanattır!

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Zehra Doğan
Auteure, mem­bre d’hon­neur de Kedistan
Jour­nal­iste, artiste. Jour­nal­ist, artist. Gazete­ci, sanatçı.