The Kurdish Heritage Foundation of America is a cultural association created in the pursuit of preserving and showcasing the history and current achievements of the Kurdish heritage. The organization is based in Brooklyn, New York and is also famous by another name – the Kurdish Library and Museum. It took upon itself the mandate to maintain the historical value of previous and current works from Kurdish poets, artists, musicians and other significant cultural artifacts. The Museum draws upon the continuing advancement of Western philosophies and Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the Kurdish heritage as the impetus for maintaining a cultural identity that will last for generations to come.
For hundreds of years, Kurds have occupied the northern portion of what is now modern Iraq. From this hotbed of civilization and cultural enlightenment was born the Kurdish heritage. The Kurdish culture boasts a wide selection of well-recognized and laudable achievements going back to the original Kurdish communities. At the top of the list are literary works written in the Kurdish dialects Sorani, Kurmanji and Gorani dating back to the medieval ages. The Kurdish Heritage Foundation of America’s literary compilation includes works by Ali Hariri (11th century), Parishan Dinawari (14th century), Faqi Tayran (16th century), Malaye Jaziri (16th century), Mustafa Besarani (17th century), Ahmad Khani (17th century), Ismail Bayazidi (18th century), Shayda Awrami (18th century), Mastoureh Ardalan (10th century) among others.
The collection of literary works consists of a healthy mixture of religious text, folk stories and drama. The Meshefa Res is a 13th century religious work that holds deep significance for the Kurdish heritage because it traces its roots to the birth of Islam only a few centuries after the birth of the prophet Mohammed. In the same way, the book “In the Words of the Black Horse” written in the 17th century compiled some of the most cherished folk stories of the Kurdish culture. The drama of “Mam and Zin” is a 17th century work by Ahmad Khani showcasing the separate and parallel development of literature in the Middle East when Europe was starting to produce some of the most celebrated writers and playwrights in the world.
The Kurdish heritage also contains some classical works in Middle East music previously used to fill the halls of Kurdish courts. These unique musical masterpieces were developed and perfected by traveling musicians including minstrels and bards. It documents some of the most significant developments in Kurdish history such as the epic ballad of Saladin. There are also local flavors of romantic stories providing a slice of Kurdish love affairs in the 17th century. Musical complications will also not be complete without religious songs that permeate through everything that is Kurdish. Songs of celebration, dance, love, wedding, festivals, the changing of the seasons and epics tell the story of the evolution of the Kurdish heritage where written prose was not available.
Kurdish hand-crafted rugs are another artifact that continues to be deeply admired today. The intricate designs with floral patterns reflect the rich and vibrant identity of the Kurdish heritage. Old Kurdish rugs are said to embody the dreams, aspirations and hopes of the rug maker making it possible to read their emotions from the masterpieces they create. Today, the Kurdish rug-making industry continues to be a thriving sector producing export-quality handicrafts to many parts of the world. The high-quality wool combined with brilliant colors and imaginative floral and geometric designs make the Kurdish rugs a much coveted souvenir from the Middle East.
Perhaps the most important facet of the Kurdish cultural identity is rooted in the everyday practices and traditions that most Kurds continue to observe up to this day. Festivals and ceremonies like the Newroz, Pir Shalyar and Buka Barana continue to be celebrated in many parts of the Kurdish country. Other beliefs and practices like growing a mustache and beard to show masculinity are still intrinsic to the Kurdish way of life.
Still, as new philosophies advance forward on the heels of technology, much of the Kurdish heritage is facing the threat of being forgotten. Already, there are areas where old cultural norms are being exchanged for new ones. The Kurdish Heritage Foundation of America showcases the history of Kurdish culture to make it a lasting testament to the beauty of the Kurdish heritage. Smacked in the center of one of America’s most iconic cities, the Museum serves as a reminder that cultures can coexist without harming each other. The beauty of Kurdish heritage is in itself a plea to safeguard an old and illustrious Middle Eastern culture, and for as long as the threat of cultural extinction remains a possibility, the Kurdish Heritage Foundation will do its part to preserve the ideals of the Kurdish identity.