Akam Shex Hadi

Akam was born in 1985 in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Lives and works in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

In this series, specially commissioned for the 5th Çanakkale Biennial in partnership with the Ruya
Foundation, a set of anonymous men, women and children from the city of Sulaymaniyah stand in
unnamed territory surrounded by circles of barbed wire. Each solitary figure looks up towards the photographer, as if in prayer or making a wish to the heavens. Outside of the circles, placed on the ground, are paper kites of different colours and sizes, hand-made by children in Sulaymaniyah. Despite representing dreams and desires, the kites are entangled together and tied to the barbed wire. The wire represents national borders and territories that we are attached to and that exist within us always. Always covered in barbs, the wire also persistently limits the figures.
According to the artist, migration can deprive us of some of our dreams, but it can also creates new ones, whether someone is within his/her own borders or beyond them. The world of social media often portrays today’s refugee crisis as though it were a singular occurrence. Yet life has always provided the need for migration, despite the attachment we often feel to our homeland. The word ‘exile’ once meant being forced to stay in one place, with no freedom to leave. Today, it is our own homelands that can become a prison, as many people living in conflict zones worldwide will testify. In ‘Migration’ Akam Shex Hadi responds to the contradictions and multi-facetedness of migration, drawing on his own first hand experience of internal displacement and mass migration in Iraq.
Kites float in the sky, and embody our desire to free ourselves in flight. Yet their movement is neither spontaneous nor free. Shex Hadi has said, ‘Like the spiritual ties that pull us back home, a kite is always being drawn back to its owner by a string. Once the cord of this kite is cut, we are a mere number among the lost or wandering.’