A recent press arti­cle titled: “Zehra Doğan, from Turk­ish prison to the Tate Mod­ern.” The head­line seemed to intro­duce a fairy tale, although this excel­lent arti­cle, pub­lished in Lon­don, was sim­ply announc­ing an instal­la­tion by Zehra cov­er­ing the black years of 2015/2016.

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What is there to know exact­ly about Zehra Doğan’s artis­tic and activist pres­ence in May in one of the most pres­ti­gious con­tem­po­rary art muse­ums in Europe?

The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers my art as threat­en­ing because I draw what they have done. I paint their dis­grace. Con­se­quent­ly, they hate my art but I have no choice, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has giv­en me so much mate­r­i­al to work with. This gov­ern­ment does not like my art because I doc­u­ment and pro­vide evi­dence of their destruc­tions – as I do in my writing.”

This is what Zehra Doğan said in recent interviews.

She also announced: “I will present an exhi­bi­tion at the Tate Exchange in Lon­don from May 21st to 25th, along with oth­er artists.”

Under the title “Who are we?” the event was con­ceived by Coun­ter­points Arts and The Open Uni­ver­si­ty with artists and activists.

As a jour­nal­ist who cov­ered the destruc­tions and con­fronta­tions in the Kur­dish towns in Turkey between 2015 and 2016, I will show objects I assem­bled that had been aban­doned under the rub­ble of demol­ished build­ings. Through these objects depict­ing a wound­ed every­day life, I will tell the sto­ry of these peo­ple. This instal­la­tion will high­light my work as an artist and as a jour­nal­ist. One of the most strik­ing objects on dis­play is a burned mul­ti-col­ored carpet.

This car­pet rep­re­sents all the coun­try’s inhab­i­tants: Turks, Kurds, Arabs, etc. Peo­ple are beau­ti­ful when they are togeth­er, not when they are divid­ed. How­ev­er, this part­ly burned car­pet shows we were divid­ed and burned. There will also be clothes that are a part of peo­ple’s iden­ti­ty – how they val­ue and define them­selves. These items were left behind, burned and lift­ed out of the rub­ble, show­ing there were deaths…

As a reminder, Zehra has just spent over two years in Turk­ish jails. In Lon­don to received a prize for her art, the Eng­lish PEN is greet­ing her in res­i­dence. For those who know the pow­er of her words, of her writ­ing and of her works, there is noth­ing sur­pris­ing in the fact the con­tem­po­rary art muse­um of Lon­don, the Tate Mod­ern, should give Zehra and oth­er activist artists a sort of “carte blanche”. She insist­ed on pre­sent­ing the cry and the mem­o­ry of the tor­tured ones from the Kur­dish towns under siege in 2015 and 2016.

Sen­tenced and incar­cer­at­ed for “pro­pa­gan­da”, because of a dig­i­tal draw­ing show­ing the destroyed town of Nusay­bin, a draw­ing done dur­ing this nth black peri­od for the Kurds, she repeats her denun­ci­a­tion with this instal­la­tion that will include chron­i­cles of these sieges, read or avail­able for consultation.

This is how Zehra described this installation:

My work is an instal­la­tion. I call it ‘Ê Li Dû Man – Left Behind’. A burned blan­ket will be sus­pend­ed in the entrance. It is one of the blan­kets that hung as bar­ri­cades in Nusay­bin. The peo­ple had hung cur­tains and blan­kets across the streets to pro­tect them­selves from snipers. These sus­pend­ed bar­ri­cades were not only cur­tains. They were also armour. Does some­one remem­ber the white flag held in one hand? All of us still know what it meant.

There will be a burned, hand-loomed car­pet on the ground. This car­pet rep­re­sents the peo­ples set­tled on these lands. In order to be togeth­er, we had knot­ted the threads and woven some­thing like a beau­ti­ful car­pet. But it is burned, as we are. We are like the car­pet, burned, bro­ken, torn…

The videos and pho­tos I took dur­ing the cur­few will be shown on screen with the instal­la­tion. And sto­ries will be read of those who lived behind the bar­ri­cades. What hap­pened dur­ing the cur­few, what hap­pened before, how did it end? Each of the vis­i­tors will be informed of the events in 2015–2016 and will receive a writ­ten text. He/She will read, learn and under­stand. And when they leave, they will take with them a copy of the paper ‘Ê Li Dû Man’, pre­pared with jour­nal­ist Ege Dün­dar. In this paper, they will learn about the Kur­dish expe­ri­ences, the jailed pris­on­ers, the hunger strikes, the writ­ers, poets, artists and chil­dren. After all this, per­haps each per­son can go home and act, by writ­ing a let­ter to pris­on­ers for exam­ple…”

By search­ing through Kedis­tan’s archives for the years 2015/2016, you will find ele­ments of this con­text. But of course, best of all would be to attend the exhi­bi­tion between May 21st and 25th.

Instal­la­tion: Ê Li Dû Man (Left behind) by Zehra Doğan
As part of Who Are We?
21 — 25 May • Tate Exchange
12.00 — 18.00  Free entry
Tate Mod­ern, Bank­side, Lon­don SE1 9TG

As a further reminder:

End of 2019, you will find Zehra Doğan’s prison cor­re­spon­dence and a ret­ro­spec­tive of her works from the years 2016 to 2019, pub­lished at Edi­tions des Femmes in Paris.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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