Chasing Life: A Journey for Love and Art

Alan Ciwan is a Kurdish actor from the city of Batman, southeast Turkey. In 2005, he began his acting career in the theater and in 2009 he moved to Istanbul and finally settled in Germany last year to continue his acting.
Currently, the 27-year-old actor presents the first Kurd Idol contest that has been taking place all over Europe, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. Mr. Ciwan was more than happy to share with ZÎV more about his background and work in exclusive this interview:

How was working in the theater in Batman?

Batman, a Kurdish city known for its theaters and art scene, is where I started playing at the local theater at an early age. Although there was Bihar Cultural Center, which was a part of a larger theater group called Mesopotamia cultural Center that produced plays in Kurdish, I was working with other groups that did plays in Turkish. This continued until 2009 when I moved to Istanbul because I felt myself in a vicious acting circle. I went to Istanbul to improve myself and my acting.
I started to perform at children’s theaters and shortly after, I performed at the Destar theatre, which showed plays in Kurdish. It was then very reasonable for me to start learning more Kurdish, because the Kurdish we spoke in Batman didn’t include any arts vocabulary. That was the start of my revolutionary time; reading Kurdish novels and performing Kurdish plays in Istanbul. I have to mention that I also directed dubbing for Kurdish channels, as well as working on dubbing many classic and animation movies to Kurdish.

As a Kurdish Artist, I suppose you faced some challenges on the way?

Well, yes! We would face a lot of difficulties when we wanted Kurdish to be taught academically. So naturally it was a big challenge to perform in Kurdish in a metropolis capital such as Istanbul.
Although the Turkish government declared that it supported the participation of cultural rights in the country, it did everything it could to minimize the use of the Kurdish Language. Still, we could see that things were becoming better; we even got the support from the cultural ministry for some of our projects. But 3 years later, the ministry stopped funding us and the government began a campaign to close theaters in Kurdish cities like Batman, which left the artists and people who worked in theater jobless and out of support. Not only that, the government also closed the Kurdish Institute and theaters that performed plays in Kurdish.

However, looking back at the past 3-4 years, the Kurdish art is growing, young Kurds continue to do more art in Kurdish. Some even were nominated for several cultural contests. The hard work of the Kurdish Institute did not go to waste. The institute would arrange classes for young people to learn Kurdish.

So what was the reason that pushed you to move to Germany?

Good question. As an artist, it wasn’t easy for me to leave my homeland. It was a matter of how much I could stand living in a place where I felt that I couldn’t breathe anymore nor see the sky and life around me clearly. I wanted to go to a place where I would be allowed to do my art and exercise my culture. I felt I no longer belonged there. As a Kurdish artist, you must fight for the simplest things like your identity. I wasn’t ready for fighting so moved to Germany instead, to freely listen to the music I like in a language I want without fear. I wanted to lay down on grass, breath fresh air and be free as a normal citizen. So my moving to Germany wasn’t for political reason but more for chasing my basic human rights.

What about your work in the cinema industry?

I acted in one movie called the Falling of Heaven and in another short film called The Hundred Year Love Story. Currently, I am open for new cinema projects. Although I can say that I am more of a theater person but I can’t deny the popularity and the importance of cinema if you want to spread your message in the world.

You present the first Kurd Idol, how has it been for you so far?

Honestly presenting a TV show is not like something I would usually do, but Kurd idol is a very special show for me, because we Kurds have been culturally isolated and separated from each other. It is a new thing that we are starting to learn about each other’s existence.
Anyway, through Kurd Idol I learned a lot about the Kurdish cities in Southern Kurdistan. I traveled around the cities and ate their food. I got the feeling of Kurdistan, and as you may already know, Kurd Idol is the first TV show that gathered young talented Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan.