Yezidi women highlight the role of art in promoting mental health

Yezidi women highlight the role of art in promoting mental health

With a new digital archive on the Google Art and Culture platform


Thursday – 2 Rabi’ al-Thani 1444 AH – 27 October 2022 AD Issue No. [
16039]

A girl participates in her paintings in the online exhibition of Yazidi women

Paris: «Middle East»

Yesterday, the United Nations launched a new digital archive on the Google Arts and Culture platform on the Yazidis, one of the minorities in northern Iraq. It includes a series of artworks and live testimonies by Yazidi women who tell their stories of resilience and courage to protect their culture, and share their journey using art as a means to provide psychological support to survivors of the genocide perpetrated by ISIS in 2014.
The Yazidi Culture Archive is available globally in both Arabic and English on Google for Arts and Culture. It consists of four online exhibitions prepared by Yazidi women in cooperation with the Yazda community organization concerned with the protection and empowerment of Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities. Also participating in the project were Community Jameel, the Cultureunners Foundation, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy for Technology to the United Nations, Nobody’s Listening, and Google for Arts and Culture. As part of this project, its impact on the mental health of the participants was assessed, with the support of the Arts and Health Initiative at New York University and the “Arts and Health” program of the World Health Organization.
The “Yazidi Culture Archive” was prepared over a period of 12 months. The project is also supported by the Iraqi Cultural Health Fund, as part of the “Healing Arts” initiative under the auspices of the Arts and Health Program of the World Health Organization. During the project, Yazda worked with Yazidi women to enhance their psychological well-being through workshops in the fields of photography and visual arts, in addition to helping preserve Yazidi cultural traditions by sharing the stories and experiences of Yazidi survivors. The project included supporting IDP camps in Qadisiyah, Khanik, Mam Rashan, Kabarto, Shariya and Shamshko in Dohuk Governorate, Iraq, and Yazda will use it to implement more psychosocial support programs.
The four exhibitions highlight work produced during a series of art and photography workshops run by Yazda to help the participating women unleash their creativity, restore their sense of belonging, connect with other survivors, share their cultural heritage, and tell their stories and experiences with more communities around the world.
According to Yazda, the Yazidi genocide, the destruction of cultural heritage sites, and the abductions of more than 6,000 women and children had a devastating impact on the Yazidi community, with suicide attempts and deaths shockingly high. The number of Yazidis in Iraq reached more than half a million people before 2014. However, ISIS caused the internal displacement of 360,000 of them, and 200,000 are still living in camps for the displaced.
The “Yazidi Culture Archive” was launched on “Google for Arts and Culture” during events organized in Paris and Dohuk in the presence of the Yazidi survivors, who participated in preparing the archive, in addition to a number of officials, researchers and activists in the fields of culture and health.
Millions Luqman Khalaf, one of the participants in the project, said, “I painted because I wanted people to know what my life was like in captivity and afterwards. We were relieved to express ourselves because we couldn’t talk. I felt proud of what we created because it helped me remember who I am and who my people are. What we have created shows the world that Yazidis, especially Yazidi women, are not weak. Our culture, art and beliefs will not be forgotten. I want others to know that we are back and stronger than before.”
Haider Elias, President of Yazda, said, “Our culture is our identity, and preserving it is fundamental to our hearts and soul as a society. Cultural genocide began after the 2014 genocide and continues, with our temples and houses of worship destroyed, in addition to living in camps for the displaced for more than eight years. This digital archive, created by the survivors, is a moral support for those of us who have experienced shock and panic at the loss of our origins and culture.”
For his part, Anthony Naccache, CEO of Google in the Middle East and North Africa, said, “The Yazidi Culture Archive provides a glimpse into Yazidi culture and the experiences of survivors who used art to express their creativity and preserve their traditional cultural practices. It is a very inspiring exhibition, and we have been honored to work with our partners in supporting this community to express themselves, and share their voices with the world.”
The Yazidi Culture Archive is the latest addition to the Google Arts and Culture platform, which aims to introduce more people around the world to the rich heritage of the Middle East and North Africa, including Iraq. Last year, the platform launched the “Art and Spirit of Mosul” project, in cooperation with Radio Al Ghad, to share stories about the resilience of the residents of Mosul.


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