One of the most tangible products of Syria’s revolution has been to break the monopoly of the regime over the country’s culture and to release its many diverse colors from their fifty-years long imprisonment. The second instalment of the Spring Festival in Qamishli brought together a constellation of languages and songs that would have been sacrilegious under the Baath’s version of Arab nationalism. Kurdish, Assyrian, Syriac, Armenian as well as Arab tunes were all played in magnificent display of the country’s rich diversity.
The festival, held in the Assyrian Center in Qamishli on April 26, 2014, was organized by local activists from the Sawa Youth Coalition, and the Arido Civil Society Center, and sponsored by the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) and the PÊL-Civil Waves center. It was held under the title: “Our colors… our bridges”.
In a city long known for its diverse population and cultures, the festival is an unmistakable rebuke to the regime’s oppressive monotonicity, as well as to the sectarian plague that is threatening to swallow the revolution and the country. “An attempt to stop Qamishli from sliding into the same sectarian and ethnic strife that other towns have seen, and to try and bring the many components of the community into a share space,” as one of the organizers explained in an interview with SyriaUntold.
The festival was launched in a concert featuring two bands, Zara and Or’s Harp. The bands presented a collection of songs in many of the local tongues, as well as a joint effort that saw all of these languages coexisting harmoniously in one tune. An art exhibition was also opened for the duration of the festival with the participation of several local artists including May Qolanj, Nalin Hesso and Fadi Khayo.
Zara Band and Or’s Harp performing together during the festival. Source: Syria Untold/Festival Youtube channel.
The second day of the festival featured Assyrian traditional dances by the dance group Ornina, and a film screening of Siamend Omry’s “Tales of Spring”, and Ghandi Saado’s “Seventy Pulses”.
The festival’s third day was devoted to theatre. The Jian theatre troupe performed its original play, “That Which Does Not Come”, while the Astarte group performed a play titled, “The Trial”. The last day of the festival saw a calligraphy exhibition featuring George Afram, Simil Kouriyah and Ayaz Ismail. The festival’s closing sessions were reserved for the poetry of Khinaf Kano, Abdulsamad Mahmoud, Amarsin Romanus and Amanos Zaradish.
The variety of the activities, just as the variety of languages and cultures represented, deliver succinctly the festival’s message: Syria is richer in its whole spectrum of colors.
This article was originally published by the website Syria Untold on May 5th, 2014. Adopt a Revolution has been supporting the Spring Festival of Qamishli with financial means. Ever since Adopt a Revolution‘s establishment in late 2011, our organization has continuously supported civil society groups throughout Syria, also in Syria’s mainly Kurdish areas in the North and Northeast of the country. In spite of the multiple hardships the activists are facing – stemming from political repression, war and humanitarian crisis – they are committed to keep the civil society work alive. You can support their important and courageous work on our website.