On Wednesday 27th October 2021, from 6 to 9 pm, the exhibi<on <tled Prison No. 5 by Zehra Doğan (born in Diyarbakir in 1989) will open in the two spaces of Ida Pisani’s Prometeo Gallery (Via Ventura 6, Milan), a year aMer the first solo show of the Kurdish ar<st in an Italian gallery.
Diyarbakir’s Prison no. 5, in Iraqi Kurdistan, is infamously popular. Considered a hole, a tunnel, a circle of hell, it is a deten<on centre that has provoked a swiM ac<on by many humanitarian organisa<ons throughout the decades. It is one of the prisons where Zehra Doğan has spent part of her imprisonment: 2 years, 9 months, and 22 days, which she has served fully, only to have posted a drawing on TwiXer.
Even during the endless procedure following the incarcera<on due to her crimes of opinion did Zehra not stop pain<ng, drawing, and wri<ng. She used her hands to create acts of poli<cal, cultural, and ar<s<c resistance. She employed her strong network of ac<vists to publish her works, realised illegally with any material at her disposal, including her menstrual blood and that of her comrades outside of prison. The goal of imprisonment for crimes of opinion is to silence voices, remove her from other people’s gazes, and to make them forget her face.
The raw material of the real-<me images already shown at the Berlin Biennale reinterpret and reprise the originals that she produced behind bars; she did so by changing their format. Prometeo Gallery’s exhibi<on wishes to act as a magnifying glass on the bodies and histories of the women who are s<ll detained in Prison no. 5.
These works, never exhibited before and now exposed in the two venues of the Gallery, are inspired by that period, by the solidarity with her fellow inmates, by depriva<on, but also by the courage of those women, some of whom are mothers to children who grew up in prison.
They are realised on rugs, canvases, newspapers, and Kurdish maps by using biological fluids and natural concoc<ons: the same that Zehra Doğan could use in prison, together with a ballpoint pen, the only tool allowed to her at the <me.
With the excuse of drawing on the back of the leXers that she was allowed to receive and to send, the ar<st managed to send out some of her drawings, contained in the graphic memoir Prison no. 5 (edited by Becco Giallo in 2021), and recently exhibited at PAC in Milan.
“Here we have the ‘privilege’ of entering the cells of Prison no. 5 – writes EleXra Stamboulis in the preface of the book – and in the prison of Tarsus, of accessing the moment of Zehra’s wri<ng and pain<ng. We are in front of a historical document, as well as ar<s<c”.
Now the ar<st has finally got a way – as she herself stated – to retrace that period without constraints or limita<ons, to express herself in large formats and with different materials-