A Kurdish Heirloom To Treasure

By: Fargo Bcn Every family has an heirloom they hold dear. We cherish these physical objects because they represent a link to our past, a way to understand more about the people responsible for us being here today. From the tiniest object, we can imagine to a headdress passed down to generations, faded family photos to long-cherished handwoven native garb heirlooms, and the stories behind it can add life to a family tree. Incorporating heirlooms into family gatherings can be a powerful way to get loved ones to open up and share stories about relatives, past, and present.

As a guest to a Kurdish family who invited me to visit Kurdistan- (Iraq), I felt honored and loved to be present in their family circle gathering. Seated in a semi-circle we listened to the eldest member of the family recollects his memories; his beautiful stories took us back somewhere in time where they were young with their parents and grandparents. I imagined myself being one of the children of freedom fighters, called peshmerga; who revolted and defended their beloved nation, labored to make a strong foundation and dignified people that will keep the family tradition alive and closely knitted together up to this present day and for the next generation to come. Stories like this inspired members of the family to share their memories from their grandparents and ancestors. It was a perfect moment for me to listen to their survival stories, their continued fight for freedom, their love for their nation without a country of their own. That only the mountains are the trusted friends of the Kurds. Listening to their story makes me admire not only the life of my Kurdish host family but the entire Kurdish nation. I may not understand everything but with the help of few members of the family who speaks English, they patiently explained to me what was being related. Their great stories from the past inspired everyone to share family heirlooms during the gathering to illuminate the lives of their ancestors.

The cover design of the pocket watch is the famous place of pilgrimage or the annual Hajj at the Kaaba in Mecca during Islamic month.

Coming from a culture where I trace my ancestry from the native Igorots of the Bontoc tribe, I learned from my grandparents the importance of family heirlooms and how they should be valued. It’s not only a family tradition to be treasured but it speaks more about our heritage and identity as unique mountain people. Every single heirloom has a story waiting to be told. It’s our belief that heirlooms sold or given outside the family clan will bring curses or bad luck to the family. I believe many of my people still keep that belief until today. But what about acquiring a precious family heirloom from a family you don’t come from? Where you don’t have any trace of connection, how would you accept it? How would you even react to it? Not belonging to a Kurdish family lineage, how can I accept a family heirloom that I don’t deserve to have? Caught by surprise, I was motionless and speechless in front of everyone. I thought I’m imagining things. The happening was surreal. It’s something that never occurred to my mind. How can this be happening? I asked at the back of my mind. As (uncle Ali), the eldest on the member of the family handed to me the pocket watch, which belongs to their parents, I hesitated at once without even a second thought. It’s not that I don’t like it but I don’t find any reason to deserve it. Feeling sorry, I shook my head to reject.

July 6, 2016. The last day of Ramadan where we feasted and same day I was accepted in the Kurdish family culture by practise and tradition.

I know I didn’t have the right manner over the situation but I managed to reason out why I can’t take it. I’m sure there has to be someone in the family worthy to inherit this precious object but not me. There has to be a reasonable explanation why the family is passing it down to me. The more I made excuses, the greater they insisted to convince me to have it as a gift. The siblings, Ali and Nahida pleaded that I should accept it as a token from their family. Nahida went on to explain further that it’s an expression of gratitude and gratefulness for what have I done for their son... for considering their son as my family when we found each other in Finland. Having heard these words, tears voluntarily poured down on my cold face. There was silence for a moment. I breathed deeply and wiped my tears. As I looked around me I see the expression of their soft faces wanting me to have it. With a humble heart, I accepted the family heirloom promising that I will take good care of it. My twenty days visit to Kurdistan was not only fun-filled with great adventure but most of all inspiring. A journey that gave greater meaning to my existence. Not only about the object that I acquired but its significance that brought joy to me. More so about the Kurds who have touched my life with their extraordinary love, treatment, and warm hospitality. May it lead me back to return what was entrusted to me one day. And if life fades, I wish that someone from my family will find his or her heart to carry this heirloom back to where it belongs someday. For now, I just have to cherish the love and blessings that were poured into it. I may not understand the message it has for me but surely one day I will.

My Kurdish dress given to me as a gift. Made of finest mesh fabric or a sheer fabric which is ornamented skillfully with many beads and sequins.

Four weeks have passed but it seems like only yesterday that I was fitting my traditional Kurdish dress and trying to follow the steps as we sang and danced in a festive way. But as the cold wind touches my cheeks, I realized that it was just my wishful thinking. As the evening falls and the noisy seagulls find their resting place, I find myself sitting on a quiet balcony at my apartment in Finland. As I look up to the heavens, I see the stars looking down on me smiling. From those stars, I see the happy faces of my ancestors and those ancestors of my extended Kurdish family who treated me like their own daughter and sister. Same people who embraced me and lovingly took care of me. The same people that I prayed together even if they praise Allah and myself to the Giver of Life. To the same God who authored my life as to why all these things happened to me. I simply smiled and whispered with delight thanking God for all His blessings. Alhamdulillah. الحمد لله . Chayaw ken Chios Ama.

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