Art & Photography

Hayv Kahraman: In a World Where Suffering Is Great

In her work, Iraqi painter Hayv Kahraman (Baghdad, 1981) raises questions about her identity and origins. Drawing inspiration from many of the feminist ideologies, she focuses exclusively on female subjects. Graceful and elegant, the women with elongated necks move through the landscapes of horror.

Language also plays an important role. In her work, the 13th century Baghdadi illuminated manuscripts appear in two colors: black to narrate the story, red as a commentary. From misunderstandings and confusion, the texts are personal memories from growing up in Baghdad and stories of existing as a refugee in Sweden. At age eleven, Kahraman immigrated with her family to Sweden and started painting a year later. Being very young when she left her native country, Kahraman was abruptly cut off from her own language and culture. Although the San Francisco-based artist looks at Arabic letters with estranged eyes, she actively tried to recapture her amputated mother tongue.

Kahraman’s beautiful work predominantly consists of representational activism. Calling it a ‘powerful non-verbal instrument of expression’, political issues are heavily present. The self-called uprooted immigrant feels a sense of duty to be involved in these issues. Focusing on female equality and identity in a philosophical manner, she explores the victimization and displacement of women in a world where suffering is great.

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