Last year I met with Dr. Nicole Watts, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, in a café in the Northern Iraqi city of Sulaimani. We looked through a collection of photographs I’ve taken over the past few years and after a few cups of coffee we decided to pursue a photography exhibition in California. Over the following six or seven months we solidified the theme of ‘Constructing Kurdistan’, got in touch with a handful of people at U.C. Berkeley and made all of the necessary preparations for the show.
A few weeks prior to flying to CA for the exhibition, I stopped by another café in Suli and once again, conversations over a steaming cup of joe fanned the flames for another big project. Along with Leah, the Athletic Director of AUI-S, and Tanya Mewmaw’s help, the three of us decided to organize a photography auction of the ‘Constructing Kurdistan’ photos right here in Kurdistan, and give all of the proceeds a worthy local organization, Sulyon.
Sulyon is a group of Iraqi artists that is doing some wonderful things. I was first introduced to the group of young artists when I stumbled upon a street theater performance they put on this past October. The performance dealt with issues of tolerance and racism and was one of the most interesting things I’ve seen since coming to Iraq. The group consists of roughly 45 members, the majority of which are students or recent graduates of visual and theater arts from Iraqi universities in Sulaimani.
On February 4th Leah, Tanya and I held our breath and had the auction. Staff and faculty from AUI-S and NGOs based in Sulaimani as well as local community members were in attendance. The auction lasted approximately two hours and it raised over $3,000 for Sulyon. I’m looking forward to checking in with them soon to see what projects they have planned for the money.
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