"With my artwork, I want to show that there´s many more dimensions that Kurdish women exist in"
- Evar Hussayni
“Who deserves to be remembered? Why are some people remembered and others aren´t?”
These are questions that shape the work of Evar Hussayni, a London-based artist that documents and explores the representation of Kurdish women. The identities of whom have been twisted, hidden and destroyed over centuries of colonial and patriarchal repression.
The desire for a genuine documentation has led Evar into an artistic journey with multiple creative strands; alongside her artwork she is a curator, culture editor for AZEEMA, and founder of The West Asian and North African Woman´s Art Library. Her work has been exhibited around the world, including in institutions like the V&A.
Untitled, 2017 (below), is one such example. Born through sourcing images that were circulating online of Kurdish women in conflict, it highlights the predicament Kurdish woman are placed in – balancing motherhood, childhood and womanhood all while having to survive wars and oppressive systems.
“For any Kurdish person, as soon as we come into this world, everything is already politicised – we face foreign occupation and constant violence because we´re Kurdish and only because we´re Kurdish,” Evar tells me. “With my artwork, I want to show that there´s many more dimensions that Kurdish women exist in. There´s so many amazing Kurdish women doing amazing things; whether in academics, politics or the arts, but we never hear about them.”
The desire to present and explore the differing identities of Kurdish women led Evar to dig through archives and her own family photo albums. She found that women were and had been doctors, artists, housewives, teachers. Some were atheists, others were religious. Some wore veils and others didn´t. Some were political and others weren´t. Many had children and many didn´t.
As she sieved through hundreds of photos, she realised that there were many women in her family lineage whose identities were unknown to her. Their experiences and stories were hidden or lost. This experience gave birth to her series Women in My History Part I + Part II
which uses photographs from family albums to provide a platform for the untold realities of Kurdish women that may otherwise be forgotten.
“Both Part 1 and Part 2 respond to documentation and they are my way of exploring with the idea of who deserves to be remembered,” Evar says.
The two images above are of the same piece, made in 2017. The photos were taken a year apart and they show the same woman, Evar´s mother, in two different lights. The contrast between the two highlighting the choice and autonomy the subject has in shaping her identity.
“Part 1 focuses on the eyes, playing around with the concept of the evil eye. And blue is such a prominent colour in Kurdish culture. It just felt right to use.”
In Part II, photos from Evar´s family albums have been placed on a Cemedanî – a traditional Middle-Eastern garment which eventually became a symbol for resistance in the 1930s, after Palestinians revolted against Zionist and British colonialists. “I don´t know who some of these women are, but they exist in my family albums. I took certain photos and played around with them as much as possible, seeing what worked best to capture what I wanted to portray.”
A piece from Women in My History Part II
The dedication to remembering and documenting those who are and have been marginally represented has also led Evar to begin The West Asian and North African Woman´s Art Library (WANAWAL), a digital platform founded in April 2020 that archives artwork and curatorial projects by female creative practitioners from the WANA region and diaspora. “The library is my calling”, Evar says. It´s a “life-long project and is completely needed. Because there is a real starvation of representation.”
Here are a few links where you can enjoy more of Evar´s work:
The West Asian and North African Woman´s Art Library: https://www.thewanawal.com/