Jala Wahid's solo exhibition 'Mock Kings' at Kunstverein Freiburg

Curated by Theresa Roessler

Jala Wahid
April 1–May 14, 2023


How can history be told and preserved if it intrinsically eludes the Western idea of nation-statehood? How can events be depicted that remain largely invisible (and deliberately so) in the present? With her first institutional solo exhibition in Europe, Jala Wahid builds on her previous research on the pernicious ramifications of colonial occupation and seeks answers to both a supposed speechlessness and the challenges of inconsistency in the context of Western and Kurdish politics.


At Kunstverein Freiburg, Wahid particularly dedicates her attention to Kurdish arts and archaeology examining the enduring effects of British, French and US-American imperialism, whilst exploring the potentials of theatrical and performative modes of resistance. The site-specific jailed bull sculptural installation housed in the Kunstverein exhibition space refers to the Kurdish performance ritual of Mîrmîran. Involving the election of a mock King instating mandatory laws, Mîrmîran was considered politically subversive by British occupation forces and subsequently banned in the 1920s. In the gallery above, a deck of aluminium-cast playing cards responds directly to the equivalent deck created by the Department of Defence, encouraging the US military’s preservation of archaeology during the Iraq invasion. Artefacts from Mesopotamia, and modern-day Greater Kurdistan, now on display in London or Paris or still missing after the US military invasion of Iraq, are some of those that Wahid now re-collects and expands upon in direct opposition to the illegal excavations and looting of archaeological finds.

Within political and linguistic fragmentations as well as questions of belonging and nationality, Western paternalistic politics of preservation and memory are critically negotiated. Wahid takes on the contradictions, the diffuseness and complexity of diasporic reality and drafts an alternative to rigid, White historiography, a counter-narrative that can be transformative and self-empowering, forged by resilience and self-positioning.

January 13, 2023