The following was written by Maher Sinjary and is excerpted from the ASAWAR Center‘s thesis book, which is available for download here.
I was born and raised in Duhok, Kurdistan, in northern Iraq. I hold a BFA in Fine arts from Saladdin University of Hawler [Erbil] or SUH. For the past few years, I have been teaching art in Iraqi Kurdistan, and came to San Francisco in Fall 2012 to study Graphic Design, a field that I have always been interested in. It’s complicated to be a Kurd. I identify partially as Iraqi, because Kurdistan is not yet an independent country. This means that whenever I introduce myself, I have to say, “I am from Kurdistan, Northern Iraq” – I can’t simply say Kurdistan. Sometimes if I just say, “I am from Kurdistan” they think I am talking about Kazakhstan in Southern Russia!
When I tell Americans that I am from “Northern Iraq,” they immediately envision a war torn region, and I have to try and explain the Kurdish situation, and impart a little bit of the Kurdish history to explain why things are the way they are.
My national identity, with all its confusion as well as the strength and courage of my people, has been a story of an ethnic group struggling for their cultural independence. This is what has led me to choose this topic.
Aviram Valdman / The Tower
Getting attention to the topic of Kurdish heritage with a MFA thesis journal
This book is a journal of an MFA thesis that Maher Sinjary took from the beginning by convincing the instructors and advisors at the school that this topic is valid and needs attention, after three tries Asawar was approved as a valid topic by the School of Graphic Design at AAU, and Maher worked hard to collected all his research and create a visual system that evokes the idea of cultures.
Asawar supports various ethnic/cultural groups around the world who are struggling to preserve their cultural identity and/or gain international recognition of their independence. By providing information on the historical and political basis of the struggle for independence of groups such as the Kurds, Palestinians, Basques, Tibetans and others, we seek to connect Americans to the issues and to create sympathy and understanding for their shared cause: Cultural and political freedom. The center runs cultural events, lectures, and discussions providing all Americans interested in current international affairs with a better understanding other cultures.
Asawar is a Kurdish word for Heritage and therefore, Asawar is dedicated to the Kurdish community, and is part of a larger collaborative which is EthnoCultural which focuses on ethnic groups that have been too often defined by others rather than themselves, such as the Kurds, Basques, and Palestinians.