Artist Focus 36: Hawre Pshko

19 October, 2013

When some unpublished photographs by a mild mannered Kurdish Poet and writer in exile, Hawre Pshko were brought to the attention of one of the Festival Directors, Uzma Johal, by another Frequency Festival commissioned artist, it was clear that we had to find a way of presenting this artists voice in the Frequency 13 programme.

This installation invites you to experience a first encounter with Hawre Pshko, a Kurdish writer and poet living in exile in Worcester, UK, and member of the artistic collective BlankAtlas. Whilst you leaf through his snapshots of a world that seems so distant from us, he reminisces and shares his message of the power of art and poetry to make change in a world of war, dictatorship and oppression.

Between 1978 and 1991 Pshko was a member of the Kurdish armed resistance, during which time he was given a camera as a present. This camera became his companion helping him to capture his world through a lens. His comrades shared with him, their love of literature and poetry yet few survived the conflict.

These photographs became his proof to seek sanctuary in the UK when his life was in danger. Alongside his writing they now become part of his ability to continue to strive for peace and humanity.

Pshko, whilst in Kurdistan, went on to be an inspirational public speaker and activist, writing and publishing articles and magazines to promote social change in Kurdistan. Most of this material is now lost, destroyed or damaged due to the turbulence of dictatorship and war in his country. Therefore it is essential that the fragments of documentation that are left are given the space and platform they need to be heard.

All that was left behind was birdsong

Hawre Pshko speaks about the people in the photographs, and his relationship to them. Translated by Khalid Arif, Jenny Gleadell and Jasim Ghafur.

“Regarding the information about the photos, they have been taken in both Iranian part and Iraqi part of Kurdistan as we had bases in both sides and we were always changing our political and military locations.  With regret some of the comrades in the photos are killed.

The history of these photos goes back to 30 years ago. But as I have ended my involvement with the party, I have no updated information about the other comrades who are still alive.
The second selection of the photos are taken after the liberation of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and they are taken in Maydays, 8th March international women’s day and the communist party’s anniversaries.

The photo that I am walking with some of my comrades, photo No 10. My brother Sherko was a freedom fighter as well, he always wished to be buried under the tree on the right side if he get killed. Unfortunately my brother got killed in one of the battles on 29 June 1985 and as he wished, he was buried under that tree in the photo.”

Protest Without Banners

Revolution has been part of a life Hawre Pshko has lived for most of his young adulthood. For him, the exposure to art, literature and poetry whilst up in the hills with his comrades was a tool for survival. On returning to the City, he and his comrades then laid down their arms and used the power of the pen and of cinema and art to continue their cause in fighting for change in their country – striving for peace, humanity and mutual respect amongst their people.

This installation will now sow the seed for a new digital space. Protest Without Banners is inviting artists to use their creativity to express our collective hunger for change. Protest Without Banners is a movement. A new movement that redefines activism, that sees people demanding change outside the boundaries of the traditional protest, with art as the tool in their hands.


Visit Protest Without Banners to become a part of change

Find out more about Hawre Pshko at Frequency 13

Visit BlankAtlas for more information about The Collective

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