Museum as ParliamentThe People’s Parliament of Rojava at the Van Abbemuseum
On March 17, 2018, the Van Abbe opens a new public people’s parliament in the Studio of the museum. This new space is inspired by The People’s Parliament of Rojava, a project of the Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava, Northern-Syria, designed in collaboration with artist Jonas Staal and his New World Summit team.
Museum as Parliament
The Van Abbemuseum has followed the project of the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava (today known as the Democratic Federation of Northern-Syria) and Studio Jonas Staal with great interest, and in 2016 bought the architectural model and video for its collection. With the commission Museum as Parliament the museum offers the possibility for this unique collaboration to translate the project in Rojava into the Van Abbemuseum. This means that from March 2018 onwards there will be two people’s parliaments: one in the city of Dêrik in Rojava, and one in the museum.
The parliament combines art and politics to transform the Studio of the museum into a new democratic space. Considering the crises that our existing Western democracies are facing, this provides a chance to imagine and practice new models of democracy through art. For the period of a year the Rojavan diaspora in the Netherlands and Europe, together with the museum and Staal’s team, will develop a programme to activate the parliament continuously.
Rojava’s Stateless Democracy
The Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava was declared independent in 2012 by Kurdish revolutionaries together with their Arab and Assyrian allies. Instead of an independent nation-state, the Rojavans developed a unique model that they call “stateless democracy”. Central principles to stateless democracy are local self-governance, gender equality and communal forms of economy. Despite the continuous threats their unique project is facing, the Rojavans succeeded in creating new local parliaments, universities, and cultural centers – amongst which The People’s Parliament of Rojava.
The People’s Parliament
Staal and his team, among which producer Younes Bouadi, researcher Renée In der Maur, architect Paul Kuipers, and designer Remco van Bladel, have been involved through the New World Summit project with the Kurdish movement and the developments in Rojava since 2012. Under the guidance of international Rojavan representative Sheruan Hassan, they travelled to the region, which led to the commission by Amina Osse, Chair of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, to develop a new public parliament together with the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava. Osse’s desire was for the parliament to become a symbol for the ideals and achievements of the Revolution of Rojava. She further proposed this parliament to become itself a public space, to be used by local communes, for international conferences and cultural events.
In the space leading to the parliament there will be an accompanying exhibition in which The People’s Parliament of Rojava and the trajectory that led the project to come into being, is made visible. The exhibition presents the design and the documentation of the construction through an architectural model and video, both of which have been purchased by the museum. There are also studies and photo documentation on display, as well as a photo series by Staal on the development of stateless democracy in the Rojavan region. Further, films will be shown that introduce some of Rojavans most prominent political representatives. The exhibition as such does not only reflect on the final result of the parliament, but also on the political and cultural context from which The People’s Parliament Rojava came into being.
A project by...
The People’s Parliament of Rojava is a project by the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava (today the Democratic Federation of Northern-Syria); the Municipality of Dêrik; Studio Jonas Staal; and the Van Abbemuseum, in collaboration with the Kurdish Cultural Foundation in Eindhoven; Demned – Council of Communities from Kurdistan in the Netherlands; The Time Has Come campaign and Jineolojî Center of Research for Human and Social Sciences of Women.
This project would not have been possible without the work of the New World Academy (2013–16), co-founded by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, and Staal, which developed the first stages of exchange between Rojava and the Netherlands through its educational sessions and reader.
This project was further supported by PhDArts (The Hague/Leiden) and the Promoveren in de Kunsten research programme of the NOW and Mondriaan Fund (Amsterdam), through the research project Propaganda Art from the 20th to the 21st Century (2012-18).