Zehra Doğan
(Diyarbakır, Kurdistan, 1989)

Shahmeran, 2020

Acrilico e foglie d’oro su tappeto / Acrylic and gold leaf on a carpet
100 x 185 cm
[Photo: Ludovica Magnini. Courtesy Zehra Doğan]

Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish artist and activist known for having been arrested and sentenced for publishing on social media one of her paintings, portraying the destruction of Nusaybin after the clashes between the security forces and the Kurdish rebels. During the 1,022 days she spent in three different Turkish prisons (Mardin, Diyarbekir and Tarsor), she succeeded in making many works using all sorts of supports and materials (cigarette ash, menstrual blood, curcuma).

The use of recycled materials and supports – such as the carpet in Shahmeran and the map of the Ottoman Empire in Kurdistan 3 – characterizes her output after that period as well.The suffering that resulted from her imprisonment triggered within the artist the urgent need to give physical shape to her states of mind, drawing from that great image incubator that is the dream. The result of this was the tangle of human and animal figures brimming with allusions to Kurdish mythology (such as Shahmeran, half-woman, half-serpent), as well as the visions on continuous metamorphic dynamism. An intrinsic part of these works is the invitation to fight against the patriarchy of Kurdish society that led this artist and many other women to endure harsh imprisonment.

Zehra Doğan graduated from the Dicle University’s Fine Arts Programme and is the co-founder of JINHA, the first all-women press agency. She has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Exceptional Courage in Journalism Award from the May Chidiac Foundation (2019), the Freedom of Expression Award in the Arts category from Index on Censorship (2019), the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (2018), the Freethinker Prize from the Swiss Association of Free Thinkers Frei Denken (2017). Zehra partecipated at Berlin Biennale (2020) and her work was displayed at PAC Milan (2021), Nassauischer Kunstverein (Wiesbaden, 2020), Drawing Center (New York, 2019), Tate Modern (London, 2019), Opéra de Rennes (France, 2019), Festival des Autres Mondes (Pays de Morlaix, 2018).