Born in 1975 in Sulaymaniyan, Kurdistan, Iraq, Hiwa K creates sculptures, videos, and performances that are often more about the process than the product. Weaving together oral history, anecdotes, political events, and personal memories – including the artist’s journey on foot from Iraq to Germany, seeking asylum – Hiwa K’s participatory, collaborative works explore migration, colonialism, war, protest, violence, and identity. Using video to document his actions and interactions, he illuminates otherness and the in-between through his occupation of diverse roles, such as artist, musician, interviewer, instigator, and infiltrator. He plays a harmonica while walking through a crowded protest, dances within the walls of an abandoned prison, melts down old weapons to cast an ornate bell, and cooks a communal meal with his mother via Skype, in an effort to shift our perspective both literally and symbolically between the sky and the ground, the individual and the collective, place and placelessness, belonging and alienation, East and West, terror and beauty. He has had major exhibitions at S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent; New Museum, New York, Documenta 14, Kassel and Athens; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Venice Biennale; La Triennale, Paris; Serpentine Gallery, London; and Manifesta 7, Bolzano. He is the recipient of prestigious awards including the Arnold Bode Prize; Schering Stiftung Art Award; Kunstfonds Grant; and Goethe Institut Grant.
Hiwa K came to Davidson in January 2019 to present his project, Cooking with Mama, begun in first in 2006, in which he prepared traditional Kurdish meals with art school friends in Germany while his mother participated via Skype. In a new version of Cooking with Mama just for Davidson College, Hiwa K cooked the Middle Eastern dish karnıyarık with Huseyin Altinisik ’20 and friends, a dish selected by Huseyin and his mother and sister who joined the event from their home in Turkey via Skype.The Vail Commons dining hall also created many other delicious Turkish dishes during the visit to accompany the karniyarik.
Hiwa K’s visit also was connected to his exhibition on view at the college art gallery through March 2019, and he gave an artist talk. The exhibition, Hiwa K: Eyes See Far, Hands Too Short to Reach, is a presentation of videos, performances, and installations from the last decade by Hiwa K.