Conflict Zone: Yazda, the Yazidi, and artist Nancy Willis at stARTup Houston
stARTup’s mission is to champion under-recognized artists, and to empower them in their careers. This includes working with artist collectives and non-profits who sustain diverse communities of working artists.
Joining Visual Arts Alliance, Fresh Arts, and Clark Hulings Fund for our first edition of stARTup Houston is Yazda, a global Yazidi organization that aims to prevent future genocides against the Yazidi community and other minorities and to assist Yazidi in recovery from the 2014 genocide.
For a complete summary of the Yazidi's plight, please read Jenna Krajeski's February 2018 piece: The Daring Plan to Save a Religious Minority from ISIS.
In Room 317, Yazda and California artist Nancy Willis present Conflict Zone, a collaborative installation of monotypes created at the University of Houston-Clear Lake with Yazidis living in Houston.
For four years, stARTup artist Nancy Willis watched the horrors of war, conflict, and suffering from the ISIS-led genocide of the Yazidi in Iraq and Syria play out in the news. As Nancy researched for an exhibition on immigration in 2017, she discovered Yazda and its founder Haider Elias.
This discovery "opened up a door for me to integrate my practice and personal convictions,” says Nancy.
She created a piece about Haider and his family, and began thinking of ways to help the Yazidis tell their stories through art.
In 2018 she received a Community Foundation Grant from Arts Council Napa Valley to travel to Houston and create monotypes with local Yazidi groups based on their daily lives. And at the printmaking facilities of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, this collaborative process created bonds that reached beyond geographical boundaries and artistic expectations.
Nancy then traveled to London to print with Nadia Murad, an ISIS-held survivor, humans rights activist, and 2018 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The exhibition Conflict Zone: Sinjar to St. Helena was exhibited at Nimbus Arts, January 2019 coinciding with a screening of On Her Shoulders, a compassionate documentary recounting Nadia’s life as she escaped the hands of ISIS to become a relentless beacon of hope for her people. You can view the trailer for this incredible film below.
Nancy’s Conflict Zone project continues to evolve. She is currently developing a new series of paintings of Sinjar, Iraq to give geographical context to her Yazidi monotypes. Nancy’s long-term goal is “to have the entire body of work travel to university galleries where it can be part of a larger discussion about genocide, the human cost of war, and the weaponizing of violence against women."
Both Nancy and members of Yazda will be on hand throughout the fair weekend in Room 317 to answer questions and raise awareness.
Feature by Content Curator Mica England