Since the day I somehow stumbled upon the Instagram page of The Darling Beast I fell in love. I fell in love with the person behind the camera, taking all those amazing images that indeed tell thousands of words each. I fell in love with the personality behind that lens, even though I had never met her, or heard of her.
“Born in Sweden and raised in London, (U.K) I am the child of two Kurdish parents; I am from Kurdistan. I am not a forgotten child of the motherland, my roots delve deep into the soils of South Kurdistan and the fire I exhale in London is from the spark my culture ignited.I am not a writer lost for words, I am not a photographer on the quest for a model nor am I a Kurd in search for my identity. I am who I am, I write what you take the time out to read and I relish the chance to capture home grown realism and culture through my camera lens.
I love capturing Kurdish identity through photos, I am a firm believer that behind every Kurd is a captivating story – one I aim to tell…..”
This is how 27-year-old Raz introduces herself on her online photographs diary, The Darling Beast.
I immediately admired such a Kurdish girl who presents the culture and everyday lives of Kurds one photograph at a time. I knew she is someone I wanted to meet, have a pyala of chai with and chat away. Chat about how she brought her camera and returned to Kurdistan. She immediately appeared to be one of those individuals you know are great inside and out. Raz was kind enough to tell me a little about herself, and here I am sharing it with you all. So, sit back, relax (get your warm tea ready) and meet the oh-s0-amazing Raz!!!
Mandalawi: Tell me your background, where are you originally from?
Raz: My mother was from Qaladze and my father is from Qarax, both grew up in Slemani. I was born in Boras, Sweden and was raised in London – U.K.
I have a Bachelors Major in News media and Journalism and a minors in Film. My Masters is in Media, Culture and Identity.
Mandalawi: What do you do? where are you based?
I am an English teacher based in Kurdistan, currently in Hawler – often can find me in Suli too! In my spare time I am interested in creative writing and photography – my muses are Kurds & Kurdistan.
Mandalawi: How did your love for photography start?
I was born and raised outside of Kurdistan, my parents adored Kurdistan and its culture, this is why every summer of my life was mostly spent filling that void of where I come from that was missing in the diaspora. I would take photos on a small camera and not share them via the internet, their purpose were like reminders for myself, of where I came from. A world very far away from London. My personal photography helped me stay connected to the motherland, like digital postcards.
I began sharing my photos in 2013, I decided to publish and work under the name The Darling Beast. The main reason why I worked under a different name was because I wasn’t interested in having my photos connected to me personally, it takes away from the purpose of why I do it. I take photos of Kurdistan and Kurds in their natural form – no set up, no costume, and no direction. Realism of a beautiful land through a frame; to show Kurds in the diaspora or those who have never heard of Kurdistan, its wonders and colours.
Mandalawi: What made you bring back your camera to Kurdistan?
It has been just over a year since my return to Kurdistan. I returned because I felt that although I had minimal family ties here, I had established a healthy relationship with where I came from through my previous visits. Healthy enough for me to leave behind the comfort of my life in the West and embark on new adventures in Kurdistan. It is so important to come back to Kurdistan without any pre-conceptive ideas of how it is like to live here, it is also disturbing to meet many returnees from the diaspora thinking that Kurdistan owes them something in return for making a move back. I see Kurdistan as a developing nation, in need of future leaders, teachers, creative thinkers and youth motivators, everyone can play a role in shaping its future – as long as they have the will and the perseverance to do so.
Mandalawi: What have you found most interesting about this trip?
In terms of photography, it is very hard to find another female Kurdish photographer in Kurdistan. I have networked with many different female photographers living outside of Kurdistan but it saddens me to know that photography is predominantly a male ‘thing’ here – whether it be a hobby or a job. We need more women embracing photography and sharing their frames. Generally, photography is a creative endeavor, and being encouraged to be creative is sadly lacking from not only our society, but also our government.
The truth that we can’t overlook is that, creativity has flourished in Kurdistan since the beginning of our existence. History will teach us that we are rich in the creative field whether it’s through our dancing princess’ like Leyla Bedirxan to poets like Piramerd, yet it seems like Kurdistan today is struggling to fully encourage its individuals to succeed with their chosen creative field. If we took aside our popular pop stars…what other talented and creative individuals is our society in awe of? When was the last time we saw a Kurdish writer, dancer, actor, photographer and so on shining on the front pages of our newspapers for all the right reasons? When was one of our most treasured writers Sherko Bekas last valued prior to his death?
I firmly believe that the word lacking between creative Kurds and our society in Kurdistan is ‘value’. Creative Kurds are not valued enough, although with that being said I also accept that we tend to value a creative Kurd more if they stem from the diaspora rather than Kurdistan itself. This is something that really stresses me out because we overlook so many talented individuals in Kurdistan who are left so discouraged and hopeless regarding their talent that they give up their creative abilities, which then blends them back into a monotone society where they don’t flourish with their talent.
Mandalawi: What is it that motivates you? Your photos are full of inspiration, and a love for Kurdistan? Tell me a little bit about this
Raz: Our story. I have come to learn that, no matter how big or small the pocket of a Kurd is, they all share in common a similar pain, a plight and loss. Some over time have arguably forgotten that they share so much in common with others. Every frame I take intends to tell a story from the voiceless and forgotten individuals in Kurdistan who are often overshadowed by the few growing boom-towns which eclipse the rural corners of Kurdistan; where I am most inspired. Modernism doesn’t appeal to me in my line of work, I chase the traditional, the quiet and the colourful; they always create the perfect reminder for many of us who forget the wonders that often gets overlooked in Kurdistan. The authentic that has yet to taste capitalism.
Mandalawi: Thank you Raz gyan for being a guess on My Nest in Kurdistan!
I feel like I want to quote every single sentence Raz has said. Now you know why I feel in love with this amazing talent of Kurdistan?
Until next time
lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan