Lunch with Adalet

13 Nov

Lunch with Adalet Garmiany of ArtRole

The day after we arrived we met up with Adalet Garmiany an artist, curator and director of ArtRole, who helped to facilitate our trip here. Adalet recently moved back to Erbil after spending over 10 years living on and off in the UK. It was interesting to hear his perspective as someone who has seen the city go through a number of phases and was just as astounded at the recent growth.

Adalet spoke about his work with ArtRole, an organization he founded to foster cultural exchange between the Middle East and the UK. Last year, ArtRole organized the Post War Festival a 3 day celebration of Art and Culture in Iraq. The Festival took place in The Red Jail, Saddam Hussein’s security building in the city of Sulaymaniyah and included seminars, talks and a symposium. The festival exhibited artwork by Iraqi and international artists. Building on the success of the festival and to help sustain culture in the country Adalet is working to set up an annual arts festival entitled Mesopotamia Art. The multi-day event will include exhibitions, performance and lectures by Iraqi and international artists, curators, and theatre groups. The festival aims to focus attention on contemporary art in Iraqi Kurdistan and enable the development of arts networks by bringing cultural practitioners to the area.

We met in a new café which was reminiscent of a Starbucks, with large shisha pipes to be served to customers. It was located on one of the new ring roads that encircle the city. These roads expand out in concentric circles from the central citadel, their names follow a simple numerical progression that would make New Yorkers feel at home; 30 meter road, 40 meter road, 60 meter road, etc. The café was located on 100 meter road, surrounded by new office buildings and malls along with the towering shells of more buildings to come.

Gratefully drinking copious amounts of coffee to combat our jet-lag, we spoke with Adalet about the past and present situation in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. The recent normalization of relations with Turkey that has allowed for a flood of Turkish investment and Turkish products into the market. The good working relationship that the region has with Iran. The booming economy of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan which has an annual income of around $8 billion dollars for a population of 7 million inhabitants. The influx of oil wealth has led to higher salaries for people and new infrastructure projects, although it has also helped to fuel a culture of corruption. The recent elections witnessed the introduction of a new opposition party, Gorran (meaning “change”), ran on an anti-graft, transparency and good governance platform that challenged the rule by the two tradition parties: Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Adalet, a gracious host as always, treated us to a lovely lunch of local style pizza and a banna split.

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