The culture and art center of Dêrik

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The cultural and art center of Dêrik opened its doors to internationals, for a visit, in order to present its site and purpose, which is to defend art and culture.

It offers a space for music groups, and notably dengbêj groups (the Kurdish traditional style of singing), of either adults or children or both, to practice their art. It also hosts ceremonies, and the main room can be used for specific events by families or communities.

Music instruments are available there, among which numerous saz or tanbur, the traditional Kurdish string instrument (see music video below).

Music lessons are also given, with classes of different levels. And the center is open to anyone who wants to develop a practice of music or art in general. If a sufficient number of people ask for it, then a class will open.

The center organizes concerts in Dêrik and in each village around, where everyone is invited to come and listen to the bands playing traditional music (sometimes modernized through the use of synthesizers) in order to preserve the cultural memory of the people, and as a way to get people interested and involved in their own culture, and maybe start learning an instrument or take dengbêj classes.

Another aspect of the cultural center is the conservation of the traditional art and culture. For this, they have a systematic approach of filming and recording every element of culture that has been preserved, songs and dances mainly, to archive for future generations. So in the same way as the concerts are organized, members of the center go to each village to record the local dengbêj, when he or she still exists, as it is a practice not limited to gender. This was sort of a discovery for the members of the center, as the representation of the traditional dengbêj is for it to be a male-dominated or even an exclusively male practice, but by encountering women dengbêj in villages they learnt that this was not the case. Indeed, in villages or in some neighborhoods, women are gathering to sing old traditional songs. Also, it was found out that several types of dengbêj exist : they can specialize either on love, history, or nature.

To make findings like this is like finding a gold mine, in the field of preserving culture. So the cultural center is now going from village to village, knocking on people’s doors, to find all these existing practices and songs, with this knowledge being sometimes spontaneously shared by the people themselves when the center is on tour, with elderly people coming up to them to talk about their memories of the singing and dancing that traditionally happened in the village. The cultural center tries to record these voices before they fade away and disappear, which unfortunately already happened in some places.

Same goes for textile and other arts, the center’s mission is to find all traditional cultural knowledge and keep a track of it, recording for example the sewing techniques in videos. And in this work, they welcome all cultures, not limiting themselves to the Kurdish one.

As a conclusion, we can expand our understanding of this work, which is not only to defend art and culture, but also to fight back against the cultural genocide that imperialist forces are imposing on local cultures. To keep traditional singing and playing of instruments alive is a self-defense mechanism.