The theme this year is "Art for a Free Kurdistan."
Here is an interview with Shiraz Aziz, curator for the Duhok Gallery about the gallery itself, the artists they work with and their vision for the future.
Rudaw: What’s the history of the gallery?
Shiraz Aziz: The Duhok Gallery opened in 1998 by the Directorate of Culture in Duhok.
We are located in the center of the city.
Since opening we have showcased many personal exhibitions and public exhibitions.
We have an old, but sophisticated building and the ability to showcase many artworks from all of the provinces in the region.
Also, we have 14 technical courses we teach around the region for artists and people interested in art.
How did the idea for this gallery come about?
When the Directorate of Culture in Duhok decided to open the Duhok Gallery, the idea came from a group of artists from Dohuk, such as the idea for the annual exhibition in the Kurdistan Region starting in 1999.
We have continued to develop new ideas to date.
How many people are involved in the gallery?
We have 15 employees for different sections, including the Gallery Duhok and other activities of artistic, administrative and technical workshops who are engaged in carpentry, sewing and mechanical work as decorators.
(Duhok Gallery curator Shiraz Aziz (L) with the Assistant Governor of Duhok Bahzad Ali Adam.)
What other venues or activities does your gallery provide?
We have another hall close to the Duhok Gallery called the Plastic Exhibition Hall for special exhibitions.
We showcase new exhibitions on a regular basis.
We also showcase personal exhibitions for different artists of Duhok and other areas of Kurdistan.
Last month we ran an exhibition for an artist from Sulaimani, Mohammed Fattah.
We also hold seminars from artists from all over the world.
How long have you been curator at this gallery?
I started working at the Duhok Gallery in 2014.
What is your own artistic background?
I graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts, Department of Sculpture in Duhok in 2005 and in the same year was appointed as a teacher there.
I graduated from the University of Salahaddin in Erbil, Department of Sculpture in 2011.
I’ve participated in many art exhibitions over the years.
I have a monument for Anfal in Rwandiz city and a monument of justice in Dohuk.
I also designed many decorative plates in Germany, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and all provinces of the Kurdistan Region.
My passion is in sculpture though.
Why is the 14th exhibition titled “Art for Freedom for Kurdistan”?
This title influenced many artists because most of the Kurdish people chose to vote "yes" for an independent Kurdistan during the referendum.
How many artists took part in this year’s exhibition and where from?
There are 119 pieces of art on display during this exhibition, each by a different artist from Duhok, Sulaimani, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Halabja.
The exhibition displays a variety of pieces including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, drawings, and photography using new and different techniques.
What kind of challenges you or the artists you work with face?
The Kurdistan Regional Government has supported many artists, but for the last four years the government has had financial problems and wasn’t able to continue supporting artists.
The fourteenth Dohuk exhibition was supported by the General Directorate of Arts and Culture and several sponsors including the Duhok Governorate printing, Zoom Press, Kano Print, Paik, Sky Media and Polisan Color.
Until now the artists have many problems in terms of selling their paintings and support by the government and companies.
I hope will be better in the future.