Thursday, 25 October 2007, 03:20 GMT
The origins of Kurdish drama in Kurdistan

Ferhad Pirbal

By Ferhad Pirbal

Before contemporary dramas or Western plays came to Kurdistan, Kurds had many ancient, national (folklore) plays.

Before contemporary dramas or Western plays came to Kurdistan, Kurds had many ancient, national (folklore) plays. From the ancient times, for example, before Christ, Gutes were wearing the bulls' masks and utilized mimicry and acting habits. Medes also had many kinds of plays. Even some of the specialists consider some of the Gatha Suras in the Avesta (which is considered the antique Kurdish-Persian religious book) as complete plays. According to Greek historians, in the year 53 B.C., Strabons (the Kurdistan residents of that time) had plays.

Undoubtedly, these national plays were not in written form, but were portrayed through acting and conversation. The most popular plays were Qoshma, Qaragoz, Meer Nawrozy, Kosababa, Meer Meeren, Jreet Bazy, Buka Babarana, Aroosk, Pasha Pashayane, Zorxana, and Rimbazy. Religious and ideological acts included Sardulka and Ashura Blue (religious crying).

The post phenomenon as a religious and dramatic emblem was popular at that time. The Lords were buried with posts, as was Mam (the hero in the "Mam u Zin" epic). Chaixanas (Kurdish cafes) and living rooms in all Kurdistan cities and towns were places that people used to narrate stories, fables, and a variety of acting. The insides of these cafes were theatres during the nights.

All of this could be considered national acting by Kurds in ancient ages, way before the coming of the Western play at the beginning of the 20th century.

Dramatic performances came long before written plays and dramatic texts were with us (Kurds). In the years 1910-1912, stages in Suleimaniya city performed dramatic acts without issuing texts of the plays. Also, in the year 1905 in Erbil city, a semi-Western play was performed under the title ''Meery Deel" (The Captured Prince), but the written text disappeared.

The Latin term ''theatre'' was first used by the classic poet Mahuy in the 19th century. Abdul-Rahim Rahmi Hakary (1890-1958) is considered the first Kurdish author to discover the name for the art of drama in the Kurdish language in 1919, in Zhin magazine (volumes 15-16) in Istanbul. Hakary, despite issuing the first dramatic text under the title ''Mame Alan,'' used two new terms at the same time- pies and teatro. The term teatro was used again in 1920 in Peshkawtin Newspaper (volume 55). After that, the other European terms, through newspapers, magazines, and other published papers, came into usage gradually, including pies, dram, teatro, décor, etc.

The genre of drama, in its European meaning, was not new for Kurds only. For example, the Arabic drama in Iraq, ''Al-Shamas'' was written by Hana Habsh and performed in 1880 in Mosul city. In Turkey, the first semi-Western play was written in 1858 by Ibrahim Shinacy under the title ''Shaer Evlamacy,'' which means ''The Poet's Party'' in the Turkish language. In Iran, drama belonged to those French plays that were translated into the Persian language and performed at the Dar Al-Funon (the Art House). After that, when Kurdish director, actor, and interior decorator Meer Saef Al-Deen Kermanshani returned to Kermanshan from Tefles- Qafqaz in 1830, European theatre began in the cities of Tehran, Tevrez, and Kermashan. Such a Kurdish artist was the first person in Iran who made popular the use of decor and art direction in theatres. He was Kurdish, but his works were in Persian.

Madhad Ahmed Afandi (1844-1912) wrote the play ''Kurd Qzi'' (the Kurdish Girl) during the dramatic activities at the end of the 19th century in Turkey. The play was about the lives of the Kurds of Turkish Kurdistan and was performed in 1877 in the city of Istanbul. Is it possible to consider this play as the first Kurdish play? We do not know if the play was written in the Kurdish language or Turkish language. Was the author Kurdish or Turkish? An English source described the play as a love-story of a Kurdish girl; it explained Kurdish life in Turkey with actors wearing Kurdish clothes while performing onstage. According to the same source, another play was also performed under the title ''Kaway Asingar'' (Kawa: The Blacksmith) in Istanbul the same year.

Without evidence, we cannot assume this play by Afandi was the first Kurdish play. Also, in Iran, there were many performed plays by Kurdish dramatists, such as Mahmoudy and Saef Al-Deen Kermanshany; it is illegal in Iran to consider them Kurdish dramatic works.

We have no documented, released Kurdish dramatic works until 1919; also, we have no evidence that in the 19th century there was a written play in the Kurdish language that was performed at that time. Even great, cultured authors such as Dr. Abdullah Jawdat translated the European plays (as Shakespeare's works) to the Turkish language, and not to Kurdish.

Hakari, who knew Russian, German, Turkish, Arabic, and Persian languages, issued the first play in the Kurdish language in April 1919 in Istanbul under the title "Mame Alan" in Zhin magazine (volumes 15-16). This play is considered the first written play in the Kurdish language. After that, it was published in book form in 1920 in Istanbul.

It is worth mentioning that there is great similarity between this play and Albert Camus's play "Misunderstanding," which was released in 1944 in Paris in the French language.

It is clear that Hakari had not read Camus's play because he had written the play 25 years before Camus's. Also, Camus himself had not read Hakari's Kurdish play because he did not know the Kurdish language. So, what is the reason behind this similarity between the two plays? What is mystery behind that?

Our reasoning is that the story in the two plays has a national, folklorist root, and it was available to many Eastern nations. As we know, Albert Camus spent a long time among Algerian barbaric Arabs, took that popular fable from them, and then invented the great story. In the same way, Hakari took the fable and rewrote it again. What is important is that, when comparing the first Kurdish play in 1919 to Camus's, this creates a great and beautiful comparative literary subject.