In Diyarbakir, Kurdish education finds a place in the arts
In an effort to develop new and traditional fields of Kurdish culture and arts, an experimental school in Diyarbakir is leading the way.
By Ethem Cagir for SES Türkiye in Diyarbakir – 19/03/12
On the outskirts of Diyarbakir, in a three story building filled with young students and the mixed sound of violins and goat skin drums (Erbane), an experimental culture and education project is under way.
Since 2010, the Aram Tigran City Conservatory has offered free Kurdish education in cinema, music, folklore, theatre and painting. [Ethem Cagir]
Students prepare for a cinema class. [Ethem Cagir]
Named after a Kurdish-Armenian singer who was born in Kamishli, Syria, to the parents of a family from Diyarbakir, the Aram Tigran City Conservatory offers an alternative education in cinema, music, folklore, theatre and painting.
The all Kurdish education is offered free of charge to nearly 150 students, with financial support from the Diyarbakir Municipality, to develop new and traditional fields of Kurdish culture and arts.
"We want to foster cultural values that are on the verge of disappearing. This conservatory was established to create a permanent cultural presence in various disciplines and support the development of these areas of culture," the head of Diyarbakir Municipality Culture and Tourism Department, Muharrem Cebe, told SES Türkiye.
Kaniwar, the head of the conservatory and a music teacher, underlines that the Aram Tigram offers a different model of education to develop Kurdish culture and arts.
"Our goal is to bring together those researching and interested in Kurdish culture, with a mission to lead in research," Kaniwar said. "We aim to form a library with the research and analysis and develop Kurdish culture and art, giving education in Kurdish."
The programme brings in teachers who are experts in their field, like Ilham Bakir, who after 25 years living in Izmir teaching Turkish and scenario writing at a private university, came to Diyarbakir to join the conservatory.
"Nearly all the scenarios I thought and dreamed about took place in areas populated by Kurds… But the scenarios I came up with didn't fit with where I was living," he said, regarding his move to Diyarbakir. "
"It is of the utmost importance that the conservatory's language of education is Kurdish. For the first time I gave a scenario class in Kurdish. Here Kurdish cinema is carried out in an academic setting and students receive an education they love in their mother tongue," Bakir said.
Teachers even come from outside the country. Award winning film director Ekrem Hidou flies from Germany every weekend to teach classes, describing his volunteer activity as "sacred work". Meanwhile, Syrian-origin Teymure Evdike, who teaches "Kurdish aesthetics", says the only goal of the education is to produce "good films and productions". His wife, Mizgin Tahir, is a Kurdish opera singer who offers music lessons.
For the students, ranging from seven to 30 years old, the conservatory offers a "very meaningful service", providing them a unique opportunity to develop skills and express their Kurdish identity.
Ruken Ergunes, a 25-year-old sociology graduate, was one of the first students to register. She says the education has helped her discover her own identity and culture in an entirely different setting.
"At the end of two years, hundreds of people have received Kurdish education and this will have an influence on the style of art," she explained, underlining the broader, long-term significance of the project.
Other students have a similar interpretation, viewing the programme through the prism of Kurdish rights vis-à-vis a state that has placed restrictions on the full use of Kurdish language.
"The students who graduate from here will leave with an alternative mentality regarding the Turkish education system and official impositions," explained Abdurrahman Oncu, adding that the academic work would benefit Diyarbakir and the Kurdish people.