100 Images of Migration gallery

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Walid Siti, artist

© Jenny Matthews, Hackney All Nations

I was born in 1954 in the town of Duhok, in Kurdistan, Iraq. I’m an artist working with drawings, paintings and installations.

I left Baghdad school of art because I couldn’t do my degree there and did my BA and postgrad in Slovenia but then the situation in Iraq got worse in the 70s and early 80s and I couldn’t stay in Yugoslavia because of my stand with the Iraqi regime. At that time with Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Yugoslavia had a very strong tie and they were giving us a very hard time so I had no option but to leave. In 1984 I applied here for political asylum in the middle of the Iran/Iraq war and when the war was raging with the Kurds.

I’ve been very happy here although it’s been very hard. I feel that if you work hard, give yourself, accept it, there are opportunities. It’s not easy though, especially coming from another country and culture. I didn’t speak good English at first and it was very hard to communicate.

Now I’ve been 26 years in London and it’s amazing. I feel really at home here as well and when I go anywhere I’m very happy to come back here, but at the same time I still feel strongly about my birthplace. So it’s hard to define exactly where is home. I feel I belong to many places. When I go there to Iraq I miss being here. I’m kind of confused sometimes but I’ve come to the idea that I shouldn’t feel confused, that’s just how it is. I belong to many places and each place has given me so much in how I see things and understand the world.

My work reflects and is related to what the Kurds have been through so in that sense maybe my work belongs more to that place. I feel I’ll never be able to detach myself from that experience and place because you have these ties with your family and friends, the people you left behind. So you always feel connected somehow, so what they go through, you feel. You can’t avoid sharing with them even though you’re far from them.