It was back in 2012, while visiting Erbil (Kurdistan - Iraq) for the first time since he had fled his home as a teenager, when it struck Hozan Zangana that there were no 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 was ‘awakened’ with a sense of purpose and he has since nurtured his 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 the sake of the future of the region and the people, their cultural identity must be restored and revived. For Hozan Zangana, 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 7000 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 Zangana’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 Hozan Zangana 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 aluminium to linen textiles and dried cloves.