Kurdistan: Migrants and local entrepreneurs unite to celebrate their art

Internally displaced people (IDPs), Syrian refugees and local Kurdish entrepreneurs came together on 7 December 2018 to showcase their artistic creations at an art gallery named Heart & Art. Visitors flocked to the venue to support the businesses by boosting their income and visibility.

In collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq, the gallery hosted the exhibition for three days. High quality oil paintings, handmade candles, decorations, traditional clothing, woollen products and jewellery attracted the local and expat community of Erbil.

Among the brands led by local entrepreneurs were Mr. Erbil and Rishin, offering locally designed ties and other fashion products. Kurdwear, another new local brand, also displayed their range of wooden sunglasses.

Steve, an IDP who presented his handmade traditional clothing and accessories at the event, told The Migrant Project: “We need more events like this one. These sponsored events help us with the costs of booking the location and the advertising. This way we can keep our products at affordable prices so people can buy and help us sustain our businesses.”

“What we do is more than a source of income for us. What we do is a statement that we exist and we take responsibility of carrying on what our ancestors taught us about beauty and life. We want to say, no matter how bad the situation gets, we will remain in this land and work together to promote for peace and harmony through art,” said Steve.

The event attracted many young university students who were inspired by their fellow young entrepreneurs. Ahmed, a local student, said: “I was amazed by the quality of the products from Kurdwear. It made me think about what resources we have in Kurdistan and how I can start something like them.”

Reflecting on the advantages of starting a business, he added: “I like this idea because not only do you promote something local and it becomes your source of income, but it also employs other local youth who are looking for job opportunities.”

In October this year, there were almost 3,000,000 IDPs and over 250,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

TMP – 27/12/2018

Photo credit: Suha Alkhafaji. Participants of the Heart & Art exhibition