Return to Kurdistan will show Iraqi Kurdistan in contemporary photographs by Richard Wilding, alongside historical photographs taken in the 1940s by Anthony Kersting. Richard Wilding’s photographs of Iraqi Kurdistan explore the region’s ancient civilization, documenting its religious and ethnic diversity, history of persecution and renewal, and the current refugee crisis.
Wilding’s subjects include Erbil citadel, which claims to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, the Yezidi shrines at Lalish near Mosul and the canals built in 690 B.C. by King Sennacherib to take water to his famed gardens in Nineveh. He also documents the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s brutal suppression of the Kurds and the current refugee crisis in the region, which has seen two million displaced people seeking refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Anthony Kersting (1916 – 2008) visited Northern Iraq and Kurdistan in 1944 and again in 1946. His photographs form an important record of minorities such as Assyrian Christians, Jews and Yezidis that inhabited the region. They also show historical sites in and around Mosul such as Nebi Yunus (Jonah’s tomb) that have recently been damaged or destroyed.
Richard Wilding is a London based producer and photographer working internationally with museums, charities and governments on cultural exhibitions, websites and publications. His work is largely focused on documenting architecture, archaeology and cultural identity in the Middle East. Since 2012, Richard has been Creative Director of Gulan, a UK registered charity which promotes the culture of Kurdistan. He has travelled extensively through Iraqi Kurdistan with Gulan, photographing its people and heritage.
Richard has given public lectures at Leighton House Museum, London and the Ismaili Centre, London (as part of the 2015 Nour Festival of Arts). He has also given lectures for the Reconciliation and Peacebuilding programme at the University of Winchester and the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading.
Richard’s connection with The Courtauld Institute of Art in London led to the discovery of photographs by Anthony Kersting in the Courtauld archives depicting life in 1940s Kurdistan. These have been exhibited by Gulan at the Royal Geographical Society and the British Academy, London.
In May 2016, Gulan took Richard’s exhibition Return to Kurdistan to the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan. The exhibition showed his contemporary photography alongside Anthony Kersting’s historical photographs. It was hosted by the Cultural Centre inside the 6,000 year old Erbil citadel, and by the Talary Saray Sulimani, Sulaymaniyah.