Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 07:04 GMT
The origins of Kurdish drama in Kurdistan (Part Two)

Ferhad Pirbal

By Ferhad Pirbal

After Abdul-Rahim Hakari, the rise of the Kurdish drama during 1920-1930 was influenced by the Arabic drama in Iraq, whose sources may be European and Turkish.

Beginning with patriotism and the national uprising at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and after the founding of dozens of political organizations and cultural groups inside and outside of Kurdistan, came the first Kurdish schools and the rise of the technological, cultural, and educational level among the people-henceforth, Western plays began appearing in Kurdish literature after the first quarter in the 20th century.

Dramatic activities in schools by the teachers and students were considered the new Kurdish drama. After 1914, many Kurdish students, especially graduates from the Rushdia and Madars schools, were going to Dar Al-Mualimin Ibtidaii, which was the primary teachers' institution, and Huquq Kuliase, the College of Rights, in Mosul and Baghdad, and then heading to Istanbul for further study.

After the end of World War I, the first schools for boys opened; soon after, girls' schools opened in Iraqi Kurdistan for the first time. These schools, organizations, and groups had their own roles in developing dramatic activities. For example, the Faan and Temsil staff (the Art and Acting staff), by the Arbil Ulaa school in Hawler, was founded in 1920 and had many productions. In autumn of 1921, they presented a play under the title ''Salahaddin Aiyobi'' in Hawler city. The dramatic team of the scientific school, which was a branch of the scientific assembly in Sulaimaniya founded in 1926, had many dramatic products.

Developing translation and journalistic activities, issuing newspapers and magazines in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1920s, and Englishmen in Kurdistan influenced the rise of dramatic art. In 1927, volume 62 of Zhian newspaper cited the name of a foreign company, perhaps an English company, that performed dramatic acting in Sulaimaniya. The article read: ''Teatro. Later on, we will have teatro! A nation's company came here before and worked in this field, and asked for a teatro group. They have brought a teatro group and offered assistance. The people after physical daily working went to the mental activities.''

A powerful cultural relationship came into being for the first time in Kurdish history between Kurdish literature and European literature, which was another reason for Kurds to recognize Western drama. Also, Kurdish culture existed in the four parts of Kurdistan including Istanbul at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Istanbul, as Cairo, became a cultural center for Kurdish authors who settled there, and they exchanged cultural and artful thoughts at that time.

After the Turkish system dismissed these authors and forbid Kurdish culture and Kurdish language, they returned to Kurdistan, especially Iraqi Kurdistan, and founded a cultural house that we still take advantage of today. Dramatic acting is the product of that age. Piramerd (a Kurdish poet and journalist), one of the greatest authors of that time, lived in Istanbul during 1897-1923. ''Most of us there, in Istanbul, were brought up,'' wrote Piramerd.

That is why Piramerd introduced the genre of drama to the Kurdish reader before all other Kurdish authors, and this also explains its value. Piramerd wrote the dramatic essay and dramatic criticism for the first time in the history of the Kurdish literature. And he is one of those authors who wrote the play in the Kurdish language.

Here, we present a brief time line of the chronology of dramatic history in Iraqi Kurdistan:
1919: The first play issued in the Kurdish language ("Mame Alan") by Abdul-Rahim Hakari, Zhin magazine, volumes 15-16, in Istanbul.
1920: The Faan and Temsil staff (the Art and Acting staff) was founded in the Arbil Ulaa school in Hawler; this was the first team concerned with dramatic acting in Kurdistan. And in Halabja city, there was a special venue for dramatic performances. In autumn of 1921, there was a local Kurdish dramatic performance in the ''schools'' in Iraqi Kurdistan named ''Sallahaddin Aiyobi'' by the Faan and Temsil staff; it lasted for several days and was directed by Daniel Qasab. The story was taken from ''Le Talis Man'' by Scottish writer Walter Scot.
1922: The play ''Qaralicha'' was performed by young people in Hawler. Ahmed Hamdi Sahebqran issued a short dramatic text in the Peshkawten newspaper.
1923: ''Hilm u Jahil'' (Culture and Ignorance) by Fuad Rashid Bakir, was performed in Sulaimaniya city by young people. ''The cried Jew'' by Shex Salam was also performed there. Later, an Egyptian dramatic team attended by Bashara Wakeem presented acting in Sulaimaniya and other Kurdistan cities.
1926: On February 24, 1926, the Zanisti Kurdan group and the Zanisti School dramatic team were founded in Sulaimaniya. The play ''Juta Bra'' (A Pair of Brothers) by Taqyaddin Al-Lubnani was performed, and was directed by Mahmoud Jawdat. Later, the play ''Agha w Aghazhihn'' (The Duke and the Duchesse) was performed in the first school in Sulaimaniya, and Fuad Rashid was the first person to take the role of a woman (the Duchesse).
The play ''Daek'' (Mother) by Shex Nuri Shex Salih, was performed by the female students of the Suleimanya ?????
1927: Volume 62 in the Zhian newspaper cited a foreign company that presented the dramatic acting. On July 27-28, 1927, the play "Niron" by Muhammad Lutfi Jumay Misry, translated and prepared by Fuad Rashid Bakir in Sulaimaniya city, was performed by the Zanisti School team. And for the first time in the history of Kurdish literature, Piramerd issued the first dramatic criticism in the 1927, Volume 76, issue of the Zhian newspaper in the Kurdish language. Hussein Nadhm, in the same paper, issued the second dramatic criticism, where he talked about "Niron." In the summer of the same year, the play ''Julius Caesar'' by Shakespeare was performed by the same school. And Fuad Rashid Bakir, in the same summer, directed the play ''Lula Al-Muhami-Hilm U Jahil.''

Also in 1927, Piramerd showed the necessity of the genre of drama to the Kurds, and wanted them to be experienced in the field. "The art of acting is taken care of in every place, and those who have worked in this field-their works were respectably appreciated. And this art that is drama interprets the habits and traditions of the nations," he said.
1929: The play ''Wenatee'' was presented by Hawler intermediate students in Hawler city. In volume 16 on January 7, 1929, Hussein Huzni Mukiryani talked about the play and explained its value in Zari Kirmanji magazine.

Later on, the Western drama became popular in Iraqi Kurdistan, and in the year 1934, Piramerd published the play ''Mam u Zin'' in the poetic and narrative way, and became the second published work after Abdul-Rahim Hakri's in 1919.

Activity increased in the year 1930 till the 1940s when dramatic culture became more known to people. Young dramatists began to work and the Kurdish drama found a proper way to continue.