With a population of 2,345,522 inhabitants, Slemani, located in eastern Iraq, has been the home of Kurdish culture for over 200 years. Literature has always played an active role in the cultural and economic development of Slemani, and the city’s traditionally peaceful existence enabled Sorani Kurdish to become a literary language. Slemani’s streets are named for poets, busts of writers line the city’s oldest park and its citizens recite classical poems from memory. Literature, and literary creation, holds sway over the city, yet Slemani is more than a hub for writers. Known as the regional translation center and home to seven major publishing houses, the city sustains translators, editors, and publishers, and annually publish more books than other cities of the region. With the view to upholding the city’s literacy heritage, the Slemani Governorate allocates an annual budget of over US$ 2 million to cultural programmes, and the Directorate of Culture and Intellectualism employs over 2,000 full- and part-time employees across 39 branch offices.
Today the city hosts major literary festivals including the annual Galawezh Festival, which was founded in 1996, and invites Kurdish, Arab, Persian, Turkish and Iraqi writers to participate and contribute with their work. Furthermore, DidiMn, a pan-university student-led organization, holds an annual conference on arts featuring literary professionals, of which the 2018 edition, for example, focused on literary translation. Yet undeniably, the highlight of the city’s festival calendar is The Sulaimani International Film Festival, which shines a light on Kurish cinema graphic talent, as well as international art house films.
Over the last five years Slemani has renewed its support to the city’s writers and has given a new sense of positivity towards its cultural and creative capital. With the renewed stability in the region, the city has designed and implemented policies and measures to support both the creators and creation of new literature.
As a Creative City of Literature, Slemani envisages:
- digitizing the collections of Slemani’s vast archives, ensuring their preservation and accessibility;
- using poetry and translation workshops for inclusive and cohesive development;
- promoting healthy and traditional gastronomy with a multilingual cookbook built on traditional knowledge, food writing, and contemporary nutritional science;
- hosting an international literature festival, introducing writers from UNESCO Creative Cities to a Kurdish readership; and
- translating literature from Kurdish into other world languages, and vice-versa, to promote international dialogue.