Paper puppet testimony


Sherko’s project is based on the Red jail in the city of Sulaymaniyah, which was a symbol of Saddam’s era of executions, imprisonment and torture of Kurdish dissidents.

Sherko’s vague memories of seeing a caravan after the Red jail was broken into when the city was liberated in 1991 stayed with him. At the time, Sherko was almost 11 years old when he saw the caravan with colourful women’s clothes, underwear, anti-pregnancy tablets and other materials. This left its impact on him, and years later he wanted to inquire further into this story and bring it back to life. Since 2008, Sherko has been trying to find documents and hints to recover some information. This caravan was seen for a few days during the uprising in the courtyard of the prison. It later disappeared without a trace; not even a memory or a story of it remains. The Red jail, its notorious history, its ugly architecture and formation have mystified Sherko, therefore he has been searching for evidence about various stories related to this building which is now a museum. 

For Sherko, art is a platform to showcase reality and bring these events back, to give them a space and a voice, and to memorialise and document them as part of the history of Red jail.  The name of this his documentary is Paper Puppet Testimony, which recounts the stories of women in prison through experimental documentary.

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The Iraqi Numismatic Society


The iraqi numismatic society  is a scret society represented by the artist Sherko Abbas who works, in his office, to reproduce the faces of iraqi coins that have disapperd from circulation.  His rol shifts from that archoligist to counterfrtier as he uses the rubbing tachnic ( like tracing an image) to make national symbols appear on paper such as the palm tree, the code of Hammurabi, the Mosul Dam, or the map of Iraq. The motife are then reproduced on photocopied sheets that are made available to museum visitor while the coins that are now blank from rubbing are exhibited in a case. The artist thus manages to exhibit this micro-history threatened with disappearance to a larger audience.

What is July doing


The work is built on a tension between a girl’s subtle and delicate silhouette and a considerable burden strung on her hair, which she manages to lift. July spears in an empty fitness club, her exercises create a strange formal dissonance in this predictable and obvious surrounding.

Wild instrument


 Kurdish Iraqi multimedia artist, Sherko Abbas, developed a musical instrument from a small handmade object called a Damaqachan, which translates into English as a ‘spoke’. In Iraq, a Damaqachan is a simple toy constructed from bicycle’s spokes, nails and matches which sets off miniature explosions. The instrument was constructed by the same method, and when played it issues random explosive sounds. While it has to be operated by a human, it is difficult to control and to anticipate what sort of music can be made with it.

Abbas is fascinated by the way in which the object has its own relative autonomy. In the first performance to demonstrate the instrument at Goldsmith College in 2014, Abbas collaborated with three Iraqi artists: Khabat Abas, playing the cello, Hardi Kurda plays electronic sound and artist Kani Majid playing the daf (a Middle Eastern frame drum). Through a process of improvisation, they gave voice to the instrument and tested its form and how it responds to other, more conventional musical instruments. In creating this Iraqi instrument in the UK, Abbas is conscious of the way in which it is inextricably linked to a background of war and destruction. He is not using it to comment or make a judgment, but through it, he demonstrates how war has been absorbed into local culture in Iraq, and how the vernacular has changed as a result of it.



Sharwal is the name given to the local trousers that are worn traditional by men in Kurdstan. Made from tightly weaved wool and meticulously pleated, sharwal can be filled with air and used to assist in flotation. The bubble it create when submerged into water has both a form and a function that helps in crossing deep and broad waters and represent the connection between what is an informal local practical knowledge and the extension of its possibilities in travelling, out reaching and crossing over broad.

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The Music of the Bush Era

The Music of the Bush Era

The theme of music is represented by work of Kurdish filmmaker Sherko Abbas: The music of the Bush era. in a split-screen video, using footage shot by his sister, a cellist in the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, he demonstrates how in 2003 the US administration, instead of helping the orchestra to properly re-establish itself in Iraq, militarily airlifted the entire orchestra to Washington to perform once at the Kennedy Centre before President Bush. his film in critical of this futile propagandistic gesture, enacted in the shadow of the invasion in March of the year to promote neo-liberal values, and escape censure. The work was partially inspired by Slavoj Zizek’s analysis in his Pervert’s Guide to Ideology of the widespread ideological use of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from his Ninth Symphony.

Roger Cook