During my childhood, I used to throw stones against the Turkish military’s armored vehicles guarding every street corner in the Northern part of Kurdistan where I was born, the part offered to Turkey out of the four pieces in which Kurdistan had been divided. My mother would grab my arm and scold me. “Do you really think your little stones will break those enormous vehicles? They are powerful vehicles. They come from Europe, from Germany. German products are of very good quality, nothing will happen to them…”

For a long time, because of these words, I looked on my mother as someone who gave up. I became angry with her and underestimated her. A few years later, still a child, I was arrested and taken into custody during Newroz – the Kurdish Spring Festival – because I had thrown stones and carried a Kurdish flag. In my cell I thought a lot about my mother’s words. Why could she – a person who never hesitated to stand up with great courage, how could she speak on this topic like someone who gives up? Was my mother possibly attempting to tell me something else?

This questioning did not leave me for years. Then I thought that my mother was no doubt trying, in her own way, to show me there were other means of action against a totalitarianism against which she also experienced hatred. If my mother was right, what then were those means?

In fact, my mother was right. Indeed, I could not break down these vehicles with the tiny stones in my hands. But, at the same time, I was not wrong because, even though it was impossible to break them, the mechanism at work showed my intent. In this questioning of the conflict between us, where two truths were in confrontation, there was something in which my mother was absolutely right. They were solid. These vehicles came from Europe, from the continent of Machiavel, the father of State violence. Despite the centuries that have gone by since Machiavel expressed his thoughts, the State model for powerful leadership he drew up has not disappeared. It has evolved.

The leaders of Machivel’s virtù are now those who reign under the name of democratic State. Nowadays, they do not wage war with their own hands, but do so at a distance, through colonialist policies, leading humans to kill their own humanity. 

In light of this militarized world where all human beings are considered to be potential soldiers, in the name of the perennity of supreme States, I can’t seem to forget my mother’s words. 

Solidly shielded, profusely armed, in its cold and indestructible shell, is not the armored vehicle the quintessence representation of a militarized world?

This militarist, machist and violent world enfolds every human on earth. With or without our approval, we are all inside this world.

Zehra Doğan

Animation: Sarah Machart – Train Train Studio
Video: 6:34 mn / loop
Editing : Naz Oke
Year: 2021
Slingshots: Daniel Fleury

Technical Specifications:

Animation video to be projected in a loop on a wall.

In a glass container, have available for visitors: 4 slingshots (+ 1 spare slingshot but with only 4 being on display).

In another glass container, offer visitors the following: paintballs, preferably green, yellow and red, or multicoloured if this is not possible. (Caution: as much as possible, the balls must be protected from the moisture in the air, invite the visitors to keep the lid on the container.)

A bit of vocabulary…

Çetelastik: “Çete”: gang; “lastik”: elastic. “The elastic gang”

A white wall and an imposing, threatening armoured vehicle coming toward you. Slingshots are all you have at your disposal to protect yourself. The most singular and simple weapon. On this occasion, there are 4, representing the 4 parts of Kurdistan, split among Syria, Irak, Iran and Turkey.

Respecting the tradition of those used by Kurdish children, these slingshots are made from tree branches – in this case, mulberry trees – as Zehra made them as a child, and of rudimentary stretches of elastic along with a piece of leather from old shoes.

This is an interactive installation.

The visitor is invited to “take up a position” according to the vehicle’s movements, and to shoot.

The gesture is at once simple, precise and stubborn… The result is colourful.

For the artist, this is a metaphor. It represents determination, resistance, the defence of a person, or even of a people, oppressed and destitute of any other means…Yet, a bit childish, like a children’s game.

The slingshot is a recurring image in Zehra’s works. Women and children bearing slingshots, such as in the works titled “Protest Family”, “Hunting and Delivery” or yet again in the fresco exhibited in the streets of Brescia in Italy in 2020, honouring medical staff fighting against the pandemic.

English translation by Lucie Bourges