Kurdish Folklore as World Heritage

Kurdish Folklore as World Heritage: Language, Music, and the Archives is the first international conference on folklore and archives bringing together academics, folklorists, and archvisst with expertise on different Kurdish dialects (Kurmanji, Sorani, Zazaki, Hawrami, and Kalhori). It is jointly organised by University of Exeter/DAME Project and Jagiellonian University in the scope of DAME project (Exeter) and the research project Citizens of the World: Modern Kurdish Literature and Heritagisation as A means for Transforming and Revitalising The Kurdish Language and The Oral Tradition financed by the National Science Centre - Poland. The conference is held in partnership with the Kurdish Heritage Institute (KRI), Mezopotamya Foundation (Turkey), and the Ethnographic Museum of Krakow. The language of the seminar is Kurdish and English.



The Kurds are one of the largest nations without a state of their own. They live in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and also in Europe, where a number of Kurdish libraries and cultural institutions have been established. Up until the 20th century the majority of Kurds were illiterate. The oral stories and songs performed by traditional performers dengbêj and çirokbêj constituted the main entertainment and the source of inspiration up until the 70s and the 80s when television started to invade Kurdish houses. The many Kurdish intellectuals, activists and the modern institutions established in the fragile reality of the Middle East became aware of the necessity to collect, preserve and study the diverse oral tradition of the Kurds. However their existence has been always supressed by the state oppression, lack of funding and prospects for wider cooperation. Yet, as Sadiq Ûskan, one of the folklore collectors from Bakur (North Kurdistan) told us:



Kurdish folklore does not only belong to the Kurds. It belongs to the world, so the world should treat Kurdish language and Kurdish folklore as its own and feel responsible for it.



Following this suggestion, we would like to bring together the experience of Kurdish folklore collectors, international research and institutions and discuss the perspectives for the joint cooperation in order to protect, study, develop and promote the diversity of Kurdish culture. In our project, folklore and oral tradition have been defined following Jerzy Bartmiński, who perceived it as a universal phenomenon reflecting the specific beyond regional and national communities. This approach corresponds with Kwame Anthony Appiah’s perspective on cosmopolitanism suggesting that “being the citizen of the world” is not the result of “rootlessness” but rather of our ability “to be rooted somewhere”, in ever new locations and their networks of human relations. This way, the Kurdish oral tradition and its modern update in the form of contemporary Kurdish literature music and cinema as well as the language expressing them are perceived as instruments for establishing contact, dialogue and partnership with the outside world.