While Rojava in Northern Syria, the project close to her heart, is attacked from all sides, Zehra Doğan continues testifying and denouncing through Art and writing. She does so strongly, in solidarity, in Brescia.

Through wall art in London today, and exhibitions tomorrow in Paris and Italy soon followed by Germany, Zehra, the Kurdish nomad, speaks about her people, women and their struggles. Here is a detailed view of the content of the Brescia exhibitions.

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“Nous aurons aussi des jours meilleurs” – Zehra Doğan
(We will also know finer days)
Works from Turkish jails

By Elettra Stamboulis
Santa Giulia Museum, Brescia, from November 16 2019 to January 6 2020
Vernissage: Friday November 15 from 7 PM to 9 PM

“The eyes I draw on my characters are bigger than normal. They are extremely large and distended. Because eyes are also the witnesses of everything…Speaking is not enough, I know this already. It is the eyes of the characters that say something.” Zehra Doğan

For the first time in Italy and in the setting of the Santa Giulia Museum, the town of Brescia and the Foundation of Brescia Museums directed by Stefano Karadjov, will be presenting an exhibition of works by the Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan (Diyarbakır, Turkey, 1989).

“We will also have finer days – Zehra Doğan – Works from Turkish jails” is an original project organized by Elettra Stamboulis and is the first exhibition of critical works dedicated to the work of the founder of the feminist Kurdish news agency “JINHA”. It will be open to the public from Saturday November 16 2019 to January 6 2020. Following the huge success of the exhibition held last May at the Tate Modern in London – the city in which Zehra Doğan is temporarily living out her own exile – the artist is now in Brescia as the protagonist of a powerful exhibition, in the setting of the Peace Festival (Festival della Pace, Brescia) organized by the town and the province of Brescia.

This artist’s work intermingles with her own history and, inevitably, with dramatic political events in recent news. The exhibition underscores her poetry, touches on recurrent topics and themes, throwing light on her dialectical complexity and the extremely wide choices of media and techniques used to produce her works of art: unusual objects, extremely fragile, but with a powerful expressionistic charge.

The exhibition organized by Elettra Stamboulis brings together some sixty original works including drawings, paintings and mixed media works, running through the artist’s entire detention in the jails of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Tarsus, where Zehra was jailed for two years, nine months and twenty-two days on accusations of terrorist progapanda for having published on Twitter a water color based on a photograph taken by a Turkish soldier. This drawing showed the town of Nusaybin destroyed by the national army (note: Turkish) in June 2016, showing the raised and triumphant flags and the armored vehicles, transformed into scorpions.

To the images are added excerpts of the diary Zehra kept during her captivity. In her musings, Zehra refers on several occasions to artists who, throughout history, expressed their opposition without paying the consequences for it, at least apparently, and others who refused to take sides.

The exhibition fully demonstrates the irrepressible need to create and to tell of others’ fate, and not of one’s own, through images and words. From pages taken from newspapers to papers from packs of cigarettes, from everyday clothing to fragments of fabric, the works display a large palette of tools and supplies, often conditioned by the specific contingencies of her incarceration. All the elements of daily life feed her creativity: coffee, food, menstrual blood or, more traditionally, pastels or ink when they were avaliable.

The first section of the exhibition is devoted to shapes generated in an accidental way by the layering of one material over another, as they were chosen at a given moment. From these shapes, the artists draws a symbolic imaginary work, dominated by human forms in which certains features are emphasized such as the eyes, the hands and feminine attributes.

The feminine image dominates her production, be it individual or collective and provides the second section of this itinerary. Activist, feminist, she is among the first journalists to have collected testimonies from Yazidi women who had escaped from ISIS.

The heart of the exhibition deals with a political representation with war scenes in which, once again, there is a predominance of women, because of the need to win the first of all battles, that against partriarchy. Through her own words the artists refers to Pablo Picasso, the one of Guernica that had elaborated a specific language in order to express despair; a fundamental reference in order to define the expression of pain.

The exhibition concludes with a few works created following her prison experience.

Zehra Doğan was liberated on February 24 2019. As a dissident artist, her story immediately attracted interest and solidarity in the international art world, to such a point that Ai Wei wei sent her a personal letter and, last year, Banksy dedicated to her one of the most prized walls in Manhattan, the Bowery Wall with a work showing her behind bars, holding her most powerful weapon: a pencil.

Throughout this period, the artist has not ceased her artistic and journalistic activities, producing her works with recuperated materials, working with her co-detainees in creating illustrations and in the fabrication of a internal newspaper describing their detention.

The exhibition “We will also know fine days – Zehra Doğan – Works from Turkish jails” is accompanied by a generous program of activities around the subjects for adults, for families and for schools, organized by the Educational services of the Brescia Museum Foundation. Among these events, a meeting with the artist, open to the public, dedicated to the memory of Havrin Khalaf, planned for Saturday November 23 at 4 PM.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the dedication of the webmagazine Kedistan (”The Land of the Cats” in Turkish) responsible over the past few years for the supervision of the salvaging and transportation of Zehra Doğan’s works out of Turkey, and which also handles the artist’s archives, along with Association Mirada, a partner to this project.

For their support to this project, special thanks are extended to Abracadabra Cooperative Social, to the Association of Brescia Cooks, to Strada del Vino Coli dei Longobardi who will contribute to the buffet at the vernissage which is open to all.

Practical information

Contacts: PCM Studio di Paola C. Manfredi Via Farini 70 /20159 Milano
press@paolamanfredi.com / T. +39 02 87 28 65 820
High resolution images here
Title: “Nous aurons aussi des jours meilleurs – Zehra Doğan – Œuvres des prisons turques” by Elettra Stamboulis
Dates: November 16 2019 – January 6 2020
Venue: Museo di Santa Giulia, Via Musei 81/b – 25121 Brescia (Italia)
Vernissage: Friday November 15 at 7 PM.
Conference center: di Santa Giulia, Pia Piamarta 4 – Brescia
Pre-opening for the media: Friday November 15 at 11:30
Schedules: Tuesday-Friday/ 9 AM – 5 PM/ Saturday, Sunday, public holiday: 9 AM-6 PM. Closed on non-holiday Mondays.
Info: tel 030 2977833)834/ mail. santagiulia@bresciamusei.com/web. www.bresciamusei.com
Admittace: From November 16 to 30 during the Peace Festival: Free admittance
From December 1st 2019 to January 6 2020: 5€ (full fare) / 4€ (from 14 to 18 years and over 65, students, groups of 10 to 30 people) / 3€ (schools, from 6 to 13 years of age, groups of 10 university students minimum / 5 (schools with pedagogical activities) / For guided tours and workshops/activities for adults: price of entry ticket + contribution to the activity/ Free for minors less than 6 years old, for group accompanists, for two teachers per class group, for the handicapped >75% for members of Musei Lombardia Milano, and for accredited tourist guides.


By the Educational Services of the Foundation for the Museums of Brescia.

✔ Saturday November 23 at 4 PM.

Special meeting with Zehra Doǧan!
A meeting with the artist, open to the public, dedicated to the memory of Havrin Khalaf.
Free admittance, (subject to availability)reservation required: CUP 030.2977833-834; santagiulia@bresciamusei.com

Workshops for adults and families :

✔ Saturdays at 4 PM

Saturday December 21 and January 4 : THE POWER OF COLORS
Workshop for adults: Colors in Zehra Doğan’s work are not random or simply well matched to one another but they refer to the uses made of them for centuries in a number of Kurdish rituals, beliefs and traditions. However they are covered over by a black cloak, a cloak that is both dark and fragile: one must make an effort to erase it and bring back the full power of colors. An intimate workshop, full of symbolism in order to experience and think of freedom.

Saturday November 30 and December 14: IN A BLOTCH… A WORLD
A workshop for families with children from ages 5 to 8: the workshop will cover a technique used by Zehra during her time in Tarsus prison: with no supplies with which to paint, she was able to give life to surprising works expressing strong and mixed emotions. Blotches seen not as dirt, but as a means to access an image, by a mysterious road along which one meets surprising and unexpected figures.

Saturday December 7 and December 28: EMOTIONS IN THE NEWS
Workshop for families with children ages 9 to 12: The daily newspapers provide us with local and international news. We react to the news by expressing opinions and impressions that often stay at the level of words. UBased on a practice often used by Zehra Doğan, we will trace directly on newspapers images, signs and other texts to provide our personal answers to the facts reported by the journalists.

Sunday December 15, 10-1 PM and 2-4 PM
Tosio Martinengo Pinacotheck. On the occasion of the Zehra Doğan Exhibition: SEWING WORDS
Worshop with Cristina Mencarelli
As a tribute to Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan whose works are exhibited at the Santa Giulia Museum, this workshop will combine artistic gestures with the power of evocation in words. Since Antiquity, sewing and embroidery are two actions which are tied to the feminine world and shared between women, key elements in Zehra Dogan’s cultural and political life. The word becomes a means of communication transforming the fabric on which it is embroidered. Write in embroidery in order to say who you are and to tell your story.

Duration: visit 1h – Work group 1h30 – Workshop 5 h / Cost of visit and work group: price of admission+ 4€ / Cost of workshop: 45€ / Reservations: Centro Prenotazioni 030.2977833-834 santagiulia@bresciamusei.com / All activities require a minimum of 10 participants.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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