Return to Kurdistan
Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, London
23rd February – 29th April 2017
Organised by the Courtauld Institute of Art and Gulan
The exhibition Return to Kurdistan shows Iraqi Kurdistan and Northern Iraq in contemporary photography by Richard Wilding, alongside historical photographs taken in the 1940s by Anthony Kersting.
Richard Wilding’s photographs explore the region’s ancient civilisation, its religious and ethnic diversity, history of persecution and renewal, and the crisis caused by the emergence of ISIS in 2014.
Wilding’s subjects include Erbil citadel, which claims to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, the Yezidi shrines at Lalish near Mosul and the canals built in 690 B.C by King Sennacherib to take water to his gardens in Nineveh, possibly the real location of the fabled ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’. He also documents the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s brutal suppression of the Kurds and the recent refugee crisis in the region, which has seen up to two million displaced people seeking refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Anthony Kersting visited Northern Iraq and Kurdistan in 1944 and again in 1946. His photographs form an important record of minorities such as Assyrian Christians, Jews and Yezidis that inhabited the region. They also show historical sites in and around Mosul such as Nebi Yunus (Jonah’s tomb) that have recently been damaged or destroyed. Kersting’s archive is now held in the Courtauld Institute of Art’s Conway library.