ANKARA: Nine-month season introduces Turkey’s culture to France

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Sept 20 2009

Nine-month season introduces Turkey’s culture to France

Warm fronts brought on by two different seasons have been keeping
France comfortable since mid-summer.

Adding to the balmy days of summer was the Season of Turkey in France,
a series of hundreds of cultural events aimed at promoting Turkish
culture in France, which got under way July 1 with spectacular shows
at Paris’ Trocadéro Square.

More than 400 events reflecting various aspects of Turkish culture are
not only being organized in Paris but also in such cities as Lille,
Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux throughout nine months,
offering French citizens a chance to get to know Turks better through
examples of contemporary art, architecture, photography, theater,
dance, music and cinema.

`The interest of the people and of French media for all events is
immense,’ says Görgün Taner, the general director of the
Ä°stanbul Foundation for Culture and Art (Ä°KSV) and high
commissioner of the Turkish organizers of the Season of Turkey in
France. `A news conference on June 30 at the Ministry of Culture and
Communication of France attracted more attention than the previous
seasons [featuring other countries]. A total of 15,000 people danced
to Turkish rhythms during the opening show by Anadolu AteÅ?i
[Fire of Anatolia] and Mercan Dede on July 4 at Trocadéro
Square,’ Taner added.

Overcoming prejudices

In this respect, the Season of Turkey seems to be a good opportunity
for introducing Turkish culture in Europe and establishing cultural
bridges between the two societies, of course targeted at altering the
perception of Turkey in France and the overcoming of prejudices. `An
exhibition by Ä°nci Eviner, another named `Istanbul
Traversée’ within the Lille3000 festival in March and a
photography exhibition titled `The Galata Bridge’ at the Orangerie in
July, under the curatorship of Engin Ã-zendes, received a huge
number of visitors,’ indicates Taner. `Additionally, concerts by the
alternative Turkish bands Gevende and Baba Zula as part of July’s
`Sous la Plage’ festival in Paris, Turkish musicians taking part in
July 14, Bastille Day, celebrations in Nantes and the interest towards
concerts and workshops organized since the opening of the Turkish
Café at Jardin des Tuileries in July [attracted a great deal of
interest].’ Taner is quite sure
about the reason behind this huge interest: `All this can be seen as
proof of how the French are willing to discover Turkey.’

It is important to note that the Season of Turkey and the reaction it
receives are not confined to Paris. `The best example for this is that
France celebrated its Republic Day with [artists from] Turkey. In an
event in which 20,000 people participated, a fireworks display
accompanied by the music of DJ Yakuza and Rasim
Bıyıklı hit the headlines of all local
newspapers.’

The deal to hold the Season of Turkey in France was signed during the
term of office of President Jacques Chirac, and it was confirmed
during the term of Nicolas Sarkozy. `The source of inspiration was the
success of the French Spring series of cultural events organized in
2006 in Turkey on the occasion of a renewal of relations between the
two countries,’ says Taner. `Thus, the season was implemented after it
was reaffirmed by the culture and foreign ministries of both countries
as well as the French presidency.’

No doubt, there’s an expectation of reinforcing cultural relations
between the two countries which, in fact, have been in contact for
centuries, since the Ottoman period. `We can summarize the
expectations of the two countries as getting to know each other
better, developing and maintaining cooperation in cultural, social and
economic grounds,’ confirms Taner. `We believe the season is going to
influence the stereotypical ideas about Turkey in a positive way, that
the French will get to know modern-day Turkey better and that this
interest towards Turkey will continue after the season.’

Turks as honorary citizens of Paris

One of the most important events of the Season of Turkey in France is
the bestowing of the Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris
(the Grand Medal of the City of Paris) on famous Turkish
personalities: legendary photographer Ara Güler, art house
filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan
Pamuk. The Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris is the
highest honor given by the Paris Municipality, and it is given to
artists and significant persons who are evaluated as honorary citizens
of Paris. Previous world-renowned recipients of the medal include
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, fashion designer Gianni Versace,
actors Maggie Cheung and Jackie Chan and Nobel Prize-winning scientist
Linus Pauling. `France showed how much it values Ara Güler by
the Légion d’honneur in 2002 ¦ and this medal has been given
just at the right time: the arrival of the grand master to Paris for
his exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la
Photographie. The season itself increases the symbolic meaning of the
award,’ Taner says.

Such awards also contribute to the public’s awareness of the
importance of such artists. `Ara Güler is a photographer and a
journalist who defines himself as a `visual historian of the time.’
And such events invite French and Turkish art lovers to regard [each
others’ artists] with an unprejudiced point of view,’ Taner notes.

Nobel laureate Pamuk will also be awarded the Médaille de
Vermeil in October.

`Literature is one of the mainstream disciplines in the season,’
indicates Taner. Turkey was chosen as the guest of honor for
prestigious literature events in Bécherel, which has a
reputation as `the village of the books,’ and Saint Nazaire. Many
Turkish authors, including Elif Å?afak, Aslı
ErdoÄ?an, Esmahan Aykol, Demir Ã-zlü and Zafer
Å?enocak, were guests at these events. Other authors, including
Metin Kaçan, Sema Kaygusuz, Füruzan, Lale
Müldür, Nedim Gürsel, Enis Batur and Tahsin
Yücel, are invited to events in Paris, Marseille and
Strasbourg. On Oct. 5, there will be a special night in honor of Orhan
Pamuk at the Odéon Theater, and on Nov. 28 there will be
another night in honor of YaÅ?ar Kemal at the National Library
of France. All these show that Turkish literature is appreciated in
France.’

What’s next for the Season of Turkey in France?

Turkey is the subject of around 400 events held in France during the
nine-month Season of Turkey in France, running through March 31,
2010. Not just the capital but also other cities host events as part
of the Season of Turkey, which boasts a budget of around 20 to 30
million euros.

Among the most significant events in the remaining two-thirds of the
Season of Turkey is an exhibition that will open early next month at
Paris’ Grand Palais. On Oct. 8 President Abdullah Gül and his
French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, will jointly inaugurate the `From
Byzantium to Ä°stanbul, One Port for Two Continents’ exhibition,
one of the major shows in the lineup. The chronological exhibition,
illustrating the different phases in the history of the city, will
feature a selection of 300 items from various Turkish, French and
international collections.

Three other major thematic exhibitions are scheduled to go on display
at the Louvre from Oct. 11 to Jan. 18, 2010. These are: `At the Court
of the Great Turk: Kaftans from Topkapı Palace,’ a look at the
Ottoman court lifestyle and the sultan’s regalia through kaftans,
jewelry and accessories that once belonged to members of the imperial
family; `From Ä°zmir to Smyrna, Discovery of an Ancient City,’ a
chronological look at the Greek and Roman roots of the Aegean city
with its monuments, carvings and most typical artworks; and the `Royal
Tombs of Anatolia, Alaca Höyük in the Third Millennium,’
which will explore the period of chiefs of tribes and clans in
Anatolia in the third millennium BC.

Author Orhan Pamuk will be featured at a literary gathering called `An
Exceptional Encounter with Orhan Pamuk’ on Oct. 7 at the Villa Gillet,
the prominent cultural institution in Lyon, just two days after he
speaks at an event dedicated to him at Paris’ Odéon Theater. A
conference by YaÅ?ar Kemal at the National Library in Paris is
scheduled for Nov. 27.

The season will wrap up with an exhibition by the French-based
Armenian-Turkish conceptual artist Sarkis Zabunyan, a true bridge
linking the two countries, who will unveil an exceptional installation
at the Centre Pompidou.

20 September 2009, Sunday
AHSEN UTKU Ä°STANBUL

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS