Hozan Zangana returns to his homeland to bring an exquisite design collection inspired by over 7,000 years of rich history. He is the main feature of the very first Erbil Design Exhibition next month.
I first met Hozan Zangana in 2015 when I invited him to do a live performance during Design Days Dubai. A year later, I asked him to co-curate the Iraqi Pavilion with Rand Abdul Jabar for the second edition of Dubai Design Week.
Born in 1983 in Kirkuk, Hozanfled his country and applied for asylum in The Netherlands. There he studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and Design Academy Eindhoven. After his graduation he was awarded a grant for Talent Development Creative Industries. This allowed him to realise his first collection of abstract objects inspired by the original 7th century Kufic script titled ‘Shaping from Intuition’, which he went on to show in Dubai, Milan and New York.
It was back in 2012, while visiting Erbil (Kurdistan, Iraq) for the first time since he had fled his home as a teenager, Hozan got struck by the lack of proper spaces designated to art and design. The region is in a state of war, as it has been so often throughout history, but the absence of regard for his cherished cultural identity just felt wrong.
Already as a child, growing up in Erbil, Hozan nurtured a dream to one day become a representative of his native culture. A native culture that, for too long, has been suppressed, its spoken language forbidden in schools, its visual language all but erased.
For Hozan, a well-nourished sense of culture is arguably the single most important basic need to restore humanity. Hence when in 2017 he returned to Erbil – Hawler to locals – to reconnect with his origins, he came armed with a plan. The Arbela collection was conceived to reflect Zangana’s method of heritage based design back to his own people and culture, and to transfer his knowledge to a new generation of Middle Eastern artists.
Inspired by the ancient Citadel of Erbil, once called Arbela (from the Assyric Arba-Ila – ‘four gods’, referring to the four gates to the original citadel – the objects in this collection carry with them the memory of a cultural history that goes back 7,000 years. From ancient construction techniques to the gesture of a woman in mourning, in all their condensed references, artisanal excellence and deafening silence they gently welcome the future.
Hozan’s plan with his Arbela collection, for which he got the support of the Ministry of Culture of Kurdistan, included the design and realisation of the first design exhibition in Erbil. The exhibition shows a series of abstract objects designed by him and executed in collaboration with various craftsmen and specialists in The Netherlands – where the artist currently lives and works – and in Kurdistan Iraq, Italy and the United Kingdom. Materials used range from walnut wood, patinated bronze and anodized aluminum to linen textiles and dried cloves.
Erbil Design Exhibition will open on March 4th at the Saad Abdullah Palace Conference Hall. On March 5th, the Erbil International Design & Heritage Symposium will gather national and international speakers will provide a lecture about Erbil’s history, archaeology and transition to modern times.