Friday, 13 January 2017, 24:00 | midnight

#81: Hiwa K

Hiwa K. gives us an introduction in his new work which he is producing at the moment in Sulaymaniyah in in Kurdistan-Northern Iraq and presents:

Country Guitar Lessons, 2005-2011, 2:10 min
Country Guitar Lessons is a project of five years of collaboration between Hiwa K and Jim White the former American Solder and currently the caretaker of the art academy in Mainz/ Germany where the artist studied. During these five year Jim starts to play his first attempts toward playing a music instrument which is the country guitar. Eventually he plays at the graduation exam in which Hiwa reveals that he applied four years earlier with borrowed portfolio to the art academy.

With Jim White. Once upon a time, 2010, 9:56 min
First performed in 2010 in London cockpit theatre, for “Estrangement”exhibition at Showroom. This performance the 2nd time took place at Wyspa institute of Art in Gdansk/ Poland as part of “Estrangement”exhibition produced for Alternativa 2010-2012 curated by Aneta Szylak.

The work emerged from friendship and long-term collaboration with Jim White, a former American soldier and now a caretaker at a German art academy. It consists of a live, ten-minute performance simulating Ennio Morricone’s score for the final duel scene of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western, Once Upon A Time In The West. The work is an inquiry into the redistribution of dominant cultural representations and competences. Hiwa K and Jim White — who were taught to play country guitar music by the artist – perform the work with orchestra

Cooking with Mama, Germany / Iraq 2006, 19:49 min
“The first time I began organizing this event was  in summer 2006 in the kitchen of at the arts school in Mainz_Germany. which had been already four years without seeing my mom (after my emigration from Iraq).That was the first encounter with the fact how I would feel when i see her within making this cooking event.

For me when I involve somebody who is so related to me for so many years in my work via internet is mixture of many things which is not that easy to inbody them by using words.

There was such a distance to her in spite of my longing to see her made me quite incertain how to continue with this digital mama,is it her or not? That what i was asking my self the whole time.

Sure it was mama ,she was demanding the same things as she used to be,I should be polide,lestening to her and translating her  cooking structure exactly to my cooking team(we cook every friday for the whole academy).

So as I come from another culture and my not belonging to the western tradition of art and having another possition which contradicts produce art which could be very easiely  seen as comodity nowaday,I focused more on kind of affemiral works and and also more personal

Items which I can share it with the team and each one in the whole academie also (who know my mom now by the way)

And also I feel very intemit to the cooking team, who are also good friends of mine.So being the position of translating a certaine food structure which is hundreds years old and from defenitly another reality and way of understanding for diligatesse and translating it in another eurupian language  and helping the team to cook what I have been eating for so many years and share this taste with the whole students of the academy is creating another space which goes deyond the art school as an institution.Its about closeness,about sharing,about understaning of the others.“ – Hiwa K.

Moon Calendar, Iraq 2007, 12:16 min
Documentation of the rehearsals for an unrealized performance at The Red Security building, 2007 The rehearsals for an unrealized dance performance took place during a visit to Amna Souraka, The Red Security Building, in northern Iraq.

This building complex used to be one of the infamous jails where Saddam Hussein detained the political prisoners and today it hosts the Iraqi National Museum of War Crimes.

Hiwa K tap-dances in the premises of Amna Souraka to the rhythm of his own heart beat that he follows by listening through a stethoscope. With the increasing intensity of the dance, the speed of the feet and that of the heart lose simultaneity and chase each other in a beat and counter-beat discordant pulsation. The rhythm of the heart isolates the artist from the surroundings thus creating a private and hidden space for his own thoughts. The ludic dimension of the dance allows for a state of denial that makes trauma absent while still being present in the place.

By focusing on the rhythmic dimension of the movement and the beat, the piece generates a semantic slippage that allows for a reflection on time and temporality. The reference to the lunar calendar opens to a different understanding of the passing of time and hence triggers a shift in the perception of the events.

Moon Calendar leads the viewer to a lateral understanding of the unspoken events which happened in the Red Security Building. Through a decentralisation of the prominence and the possible banality of the emotional engagement, it hints at the past but never reveals it, thus offering a counter-narrative space of reflection.

Following Hiwa K’s words, “this performance has the potential to transform the space in which it occurs. The version shot in Germany [for Manifesta 7] relates more to my connection to the audience. The one shot in Saddam Hussein’s former security building in Iraq is very different. Although the video only shows a rehearsal, since the performance never took place, the viewer reads the work through the context of historical events.”

This Lemon Tastes of Apple, Iraq 2011, 13:26 min
Kurdistan- Northern Iraq was called by Sadam, Allah’s paradise on earth. I started to understand the irony after 1988 when I was told by some of our relatives who survived the chemical attack in Halabja, that the chemicals smelled after apple.

The video documents an intervention undertaken by the artist on April 17th 2011 in Sulaimany, during one of the last days of the civil protest that consisted of two months of struggle. The international media never properly covered the protest, which was finally brutally smashed by the armed forces of the local government. The matter has been somewhat swept under the carpet: as if this protest is an unwanted one, as if happening not as a revolution against officially annoited tyrants, like in the other Middle-East countries, but as a surge against at least theoretically democratically elected politicians. This unfitting protest, a strong claim for transparency, participation and equal access to the country’s wealth, spreads across generations, professions and cities so it can be assumed that it is producing an entirely new basis for the further development of a civil society in Kurdistan. The wave of protests started on February 17th in the Kurdish region of Iraq and continued for eight weeks at the cost of a minimum of ten deaths and four hundred injured in clashes between citizens and militia.

The harmonica motif by Ennio Morricone, from the movie “Once upon a time in the West”, which the artist previously used in his performance, “With Jim White: Once upon a time in the West”, is transformed here into a signal of protest, a call to go forth, and a song for the unexpressed. Hiwa K plays harmonica, with Daroon Othman playing the guitar utilizing megaphones. The day of performance is the last day of legal demonstration, which was subsequently prohibited and when the stage from which the activists were addressing the people was burnt. The artist came twice with the protesters from the Sarai Azadi [Freedom Square] towards the frontier, before and after gas attacks. The inhalation of the teargas through the harmonica internalises again why the protest broke out. The work occurred within the protest and is not a work about the protest.

The title, “This Lemon Tastes of Apple”, refers to the use of gas against Kurdish people in a genocide attempt. When, in 1988, Saddam’s forces were pouring suffocating gas into Halabja and other Kurdish settlements, the gas had a smell of apple. The smell has since had a strong association in the political memory of the country. During the recent months of demonstrations, the people of Kurdistan were attacked by teargas, deployed by their own Kurdish regional government. To relieve the impact of the gas the protesters used lemon as an immediate detoxifying agent. The fruity smells connect the two ends of this 23-year-long history.

The work has intentionally not been translated into English. The words of protest remain in their own language and are not adapted to the rhetorical frames of protest elsewhere. The particular is not translated here; the work brings through the image and the music the atmosphere of the momentum. The assumption is that the content of the protest is often the same but the event of participation is always singular. It operates in a communicational gap but does not expose a lack of communication. It rather remains within the omitted, the overlooked and the abandoned.


Hiwa K (b. 1975 in Kurdistan-Northern Iraq). His informal studies in his home town Sulaymaniyah were focused on European literature and philosophy, learnt from available books translated into Arabic. After moving to Germany in 1988, Hiwa K studied music; specifically he was a pupil of the Flamenco master Paco Peña. His works escape normative aesthetics but give a possibility of another vibration to vernacular forms, oral histories (Chicago boys, 2011), modes of encounter (Cooking with Mama, 2006) and political situations (This lemon tastes of apple, 2011). The repository of his references consists of stories told by family members and friends, found situations as well as everyday forms that are the products of pragmatics and necessity. He continuously critiques the art education system and the professionalization of art practice, as well as the myth of the individual artist. Many of his works have a strong collective and participatory dimension, and express the concept of obtaining knowledge from everyday experience rather than doctrine. Hiwa K was involved in various collective exhibitions such as La Triennale in Paris and the “Edgware Road Project” at the Serpentine Gallery in London. His “Chicago Boys” project is continuously hosted by international institutions. Hiwa K participated in Manifesta 7 and the Venice Biennale 2015. In 2017 he will take part documenta 14.