By Shvan Goran
In the centre of Duhok, a city which is stepping towards modern life, there is an old fashioned building where hundreds of ancient antiques and artefacts have been kept in the shape of a museum. As you enter the hall, these ancient pieces brighten your face and make you feel proud of being a part of this history. The museum is a part of the Directorate of Folklore in Duhok.
Rafa'at Rajab, a man of his middle age, is the head of Folklore Directorate. He is a man of deep interest in folklore and Kurdish culture, and of humbleness in his manner towards anyone wants to talk to him about folklore. He will tell everything about the museum as you ask him. He knows about every single piece of antiques and artefacts the museum has.
Rafa'at sees folklore as identity of nations. He says the nation with folklore is an original nation with its own history, indicating that every nation has to take interest and pay attention to their history and folklore by collecting folklore antiques and artefacts, including its various topics such as stories, myths, songs and what’s related to literary folklore works. On the other hand, he points out that a nation of ancient history and folklore has to be concerned with collecting those instruments that have been made by golden hands for satisfying their needs during a period of time in the past.
Rajab divides Kurdish history concerned with folklore into two stages. The first stage is the pre-uprising stage which was full of apathy and disinterest, because Kurds in this part of Kurdistan were all under the control of a cruel regime. He says no one could do anything regarding folklore and history of Kurds unless under a strict censorship. He mentions that they sometimes were opening folklore and cultural exhibitions and were collecting antiques and artefacts and showcasing them in the exhibition, one or two days later, the regime would ask them to dismiss it. He states that now is the right time to bring those things which had been prohibited that time to get the world acquainted with our nation and culture. When foreign and local people come to the museum, they wonder where all those things have been, have all of these been used by our people in the past? "That’s why we should all take care of them, as the museum and as the government" says Rajab.
The museum was established in 1998; although it was unofficially doing its work since 1991. There were also some personal attempts to collect artefacts and save them at home, till now there are people who are interested in it as a hobby. Rajab agrees on existing museums in every city and district as long as the aim for time being is collecting. He expects the government to issue some bills regarding folklore and establishes national museums in future, because he believes that if you didn’t get a single piece of artefact this year, you wouldn’t possibly obtain it next year.
Regarding peoples’ responsiveness and support to the museum he says many people have donated their artefacts to the museum. As the directorate has its own instructions, so anyone donates a piece of artefacts, they register it and showcase it in the museum with his name written on a note card as an appreciation. There are other kinds of people who don’t donate the antiques to the museum freely, so the museum is going to buy it by a sum of money, in that case, they do not write any name on the piece. And there are other people need neither this nor that, they just donate the antiques to the museum as a sense of responsibility. He says they encouraged people via media to present the artefacts they have to the museum.
The museum consists of folklore antiques and artefacts from all areas of Duhok province, although they’re all similar, but there are materials that are different in some feature, size and the method of using according the area the piece has come from. And there are differences in clothes, for instance; the clothes worn by people of plain areas are lighter than those worn by people of mountain areas. Rajab says our ancestors have made these instruments from natural substances around them like woods, rocks and mud, and metals.
Although all folklore antique and artefacts are valuable, however he says they have a jar dating back to 2000 years ago. The museum has some pieces of cloth dating back to 90 years ago. These pieces require special procedure to be kept safe. He says the General Directorate of Culture and Youth in Duhok has supported the museum in providing equipments for keeping these artefacts safe from breaking and damaging. That's why they're kept in special glasses and cages.
Rafa'at doesn't deny that keeping some artefacts, especially the ancient ones may mix their job with of other museums, but he says they have registered every antiques have been brought to them and they have become a part of the museum. He says that any time the Directorate of Antiques required these artefacts they would officially hand them to the directorate. "It's not our job to keep ancient antiques, but it's better to be in the museum than to be lost or taken abroad" he remarked.
The museum consists of many subjects of folklore such as clothes, farming equipment, home equipment, weapons, women clothes and accessories, children clothes, herbs, folklore photographs, minstrels' recorded cassette and their photographs. All these subjects comprise more than 2500 pieces of antiques and artefacts. The museum also has 850 cassettes of folklore songs classified according to the singer with a brief biography and a photograph if available. Rajab says they've gathered all the cassettes in every area and recorded them, then saved them in the museum. He says their aim is that the recorded folklore songs whose singers have passed away are kept safe. He says a department within the museum is to be opened in the future for these recordings; making all these cassettes available to anyone intends to have it by making a copy for him. "This department will serve as a good source to students who want to do researches on folklore songs or singers in the future."
The museum is now preparing for a project to showcase more than 380 kinds of Kurdish herbal medicine and dried foods; the exhibition is to be held at beginning of September. The opening of the exhibition to be lasted for three days, but the herbs and the dried food will be available in the museum from then on.
The visitors of the museum are people of Duhok and other cities of Kurdistan. Foreign people who have heard about the museum also pay visit to the museum. During March of every year, students from all stages of school pay visits to the museum. The door of the museum is open from 9 AM to 6.30 PM through two shifts every day except Friday and Saturday.