Showing posts with label parks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parks. Show all posts

Monday, January 5, 2015

Alina Gallo's Memorializations in Miniature:Berkin Elvan & Gezi Park

Alina Gallo, artist
One of the beautiful things about my PAWI (Professional Women of Istanbul) group is that I meet interesting American expats who are interacting with the region in their own unique way.

This year, I met a young painter who was memorializing key events that have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa through her art. Her name is Alina Gallo. She hails from Long Island, New York. When I met Alina, she was living here in Istanbul, inspired by the events of the region.
Berkin Elvan was
14 years old when he
went out of the house
to fetch bread for his family's dinner.
Struck by a tear gas canister
to the head,
as protests were occurring
in his neighborhood,
Berkin lingered
in a coma for 269 days,
and then died.
In learning about Alina's art, one of the first things that struck me was the humility with which she approached her work. When I first saw her studies for the miniature commemorating the funeral of Berkin Elvan, I was moved to tears. "this is a masterpiece," I told her.

Alina demurred. She thought of herself as one artist in a long line of miniature painters who documented moments of history and cultural importance. She drew attention away from her own contribution. 

"It is through me, not of me. That is the power of the miniature form. It becomes an expression of shared experience and collective consciousness. This is the beauty of creative energy." she said.

Alina's medium is egg tempura, a paint made with egg yolks, ground pigments and water. One of her paint brushes has just three hairs, another has just two. She works with a magnifying glass and illustrator's glasses. 
Berkin Elvan's Funeral March, 2014
Text with painting: What happens if you and your family live near a place in Istanbul where all of the protests are happening? Fourteen-year-old Berkin Elvan, ran to the store for bread as his family was settling down for dinner. Berkin's family were Kurdish Alevis, so minorities both ethically and religiously in Turkey. Berkin was shot squarely in the head with a tear-gas container by an Istanbul policeman. 15-year-old Berkin Elvan's funeral march took place on March 12, 2014. Elvan died after 296 days in a coma after being struck on the head by a government tear gas canister while going out to get bread for his family during the Gezi protests in June 2013. After his death, thousands proceeded with his coffin to the funeral ceremony and cemetery. As a symbolic gesture many bakeries closed that day and citizens tied loaves of bread to doors and windows with black ribbons. As soon as he was buried, mourners and protesters were immediately met with police crack-downs all over the city of Istanbul and in other cities across Turkey. 

Alina's work reminded me of another artist, Walt Whitman, who documented through poetry and prose, youth spent and lost working toward noble visions during the American Civil War.

Back then, Walt Whitman would sit next to the bedside of a young person who gave his all in pursuit of a better future for his nation and was destined to pass on. 

It mattered to Whitman that his reader know the person behind the sacrifice for a noble cause: what the young person cared about, who he was sweet on, how he wanted to be remembered to his mother. 

In humanizing the individuals behind a great movement, it was as if he said to his audience, "take in the magnificence and the ordinariness of this human being. Feel this loss with me."

Berkin Elvan may not have been of the Gezi protests, but he was one of the causalities of casually-used excessive force.

Alina documented the loss of a sweet boy, that many Turks, and others who were watching, felt deeply. Today would have been Berkin Elvan's 16th birthday.
Educated Gezi youth
literally couldn't wait
to contribute
to their country.
Their enthusiasm
was not welcomed.
I was grateful that Alina was in Istanbul to honor the struggles of Gezi Park youth with her attention and work. Like me, she observed the events, but wasn't of the events, She painted it one step removed. I felt like she was capturing what I was watching. The Turks, themselves, they were the ones actually living it.

The Gezi Youth Generation, members of a secular movement to save an urban park in a city where parks are in short supply, brought an idealism and spirituality to their quest that was deeply moving to experience first-hand. There was purity and sweetness and goodness in that park. You could feel it. It was an incredible privilege to visit it. 

The Gezi youth generation is deeply cognizant of all the sacrifices made by the founding generation of Turkish citizens. Their deep awareness of this can only be called reverence. Watching them gather, sing, camp, help each other, celebrate their democratic wishes with a sense of community that is as rare as it was special made me contemplate the sacrifices of the Turkish people at the beginning of their nation. Now the new nation was bearing fruit. Those sacrifices had found artistic, intellectual, and spiritual flowering with this generation ninety years later. 

The new youth movement was expressed with a collective wish, not for more of the new-found prosperity Turkey has achieved, but a desire to save a beloved spot from over-development, a traditional tea garden, and the trees and park that surrounded it in the center of downtown Istanbul.

A highly rational (not emotional) Turkish mathematician said to me that, at that moment, if the Turkish prime minister had held out a hand, and said, "I too was once young. I too have known what it was to dream," he would have emerged larger than before. But that isn't what happened. His heart wasn't in that place. Instead, he responded with cold action, deriding all of the young protesters as çapulcu, or 'thugs' in Turkish.
Istiklal Riots
"Everywhere is Taksim!"
Kadikoy Riots
I loved the painting of "Berkin Elvan's Funeral March" and bought it. I then commissioned Alina to do a painting of what happened in my neighborhood during Gezi using my experience as a resident and this iconic image by photographer Daniel Etter as inspiration. Below is the sketch in progress.
Gezi Park Movement: June 1st
Alina wrote: "Sketch in progress for a piece depicting a night during the Gezi Park movement in 2013 in Beşiktaş, Istanbul. I have been reconnecting to the Gezi movement with this work- seeing and reading again so many stories of the community coming together for each other and their country. In the foreground waves break up against the pier along sea. Nature in this context reminds me of what holds us all, what cleans the air and refreshes energies amid turmoil. The flag bearer stands amid teargas during the riots ... in Beşiktaş on the night of June 1. A Guy Fawkes mask lies on the ground and a broken television in the pile of barricades to reflect the media situation in turkey as well as an evolution towards a social media landscape. In the apartment above families bang pots on the balcony in support and through the trees is Gezi on the hill with a backhoe truck looming." 
Sleepers in Gezi
Text with painting: “To contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Turkey began on 28 May, 2013. Subsequently, supporting protests and strikes took place across Turkey protesting a wide range of concerns, at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, of expression, assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism. Now, having been spared destruction, Gezi Park and its famous sycamore trees have also become a sanctuary for many Syrian refugee families. In Turkey, alone the total number of registered Syrian refugees (Istanbul’s refugees are mianly unregistered) has reached over 800,000 since the onset of the Syrian civil war. Here, those displaced by war sleep, roll their cigarettes and quietly congregate in the morning hours. Şişli Camii lies in the distance and through the trees cranes cross the sky. The Bosphorus forms a migration bottleneck for thousands of birds as they travel from Europe into the Middle East and Africa, a parallel and ancient narrative of mass movement between continents.” ~ Alina Gallo
Alina is applying for a Fulbright Scholar fellowship for the United Arab Emirates. I’m pleased the idea was sparked when she visited my “Fete for Fulbrights” this summer. Her goal is to teach young Emirati women at Zayid University cross-cultural miniature arts and the technique of egg tempera painting.

Alina’s miniature themes extend beyond Gezi. That’s the sorrowful part of the Middle East. It keeps supplying iconic moments. I was deeply touched to see freelance journalist Marie Colvin’s work memorialized. Ms. Colvin, a dashing international foreign correspondent, who covered the Syrian civil war zone in an eye patch due to previous moments of daring-do, lost her life in her quest to share the conflict with a world struggling to understand.

I urge you, gentle reader, to contemplate the other beautiful miniatures on Alina’s new website. Our mutual friend, Catherine Bayar, has written an appreciation of Alina’s work that appeared in Hand/Eye Magazine.

Additional press on Alina’s work:

Time Out Dubai: Tales of War, JamJar artist Alina Gallo Explains her Artistic Expression 




About Alina Gallo - the JamJar Residence

You may be interested in these other posts I wrote:

Gezi Park Turkish Protests: Where is a Range of Opinion?

A Fete for Fulbrights

The perfect tribute to Vaclav Havel: The Vaclav Havel Award for Creative Dissent

Listening to Dissidents

The Restoration of Order: The Normalization of Czechoslovakia

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

Loving Life in Chicago
Summer of 2014
This summer I spent two-and-a-half months back in America. It was the longest I'd been home since becoming an expat six years earlier. It was fantastic to spend quality time with my family.
We called this
"Take-Your-Mother-to-Work-Day."
Since my youngest daughter had an internship in Chicago for the summer, I decided to make the city of Chicago my base. Chicago is so spectacular, so joyfully sublime, so wonderfully world-class, I was just pinching myself every day there.
My new Brazilian friend,
Isabela, from Sao Paulo,
whom I met in Chicago.
We explored the Magritte show
at the Art Institute together.
I have been to Chicago many times. My daughter had to work most days, so my friend, Isabela, and I bought City Passes (a packet full of coupons to get into all the top museums at a discount - a great value that I highly recommend) and thus I started on a summer of experiencing every single main attraction as it if was new to me.
It was scary to stand
 in these glass boxes.
The attractions were new too! Every main attraction had added something new to bring people back. For example, the Sear's "Willis" Tower, now has those glass boxes where you go out and stand on glass 100 floors up (that's a lot harder to do than it looks without freaking out, especially given that one of them had developed cracks the week before).
Magritte says "this is not a pipe."
It is, after all,
just a picture of a pipe.
The Art Institute had an amazing Magritte show, his first comprehensive retrospective in 65 years. 

I went to the Field Museum to see the show on the World's Fair, but was blown away instead by the exhibit they had created on bio-mechanics, easily the finest science exhibition I have seen in five years.
I literally paused in reverence
in front of this fantastic
American art form,
the root beer float,
created at the Museum of Science and Industry's
old-fashioned ice cream parlor. 
And then I ate it!
video
 At the Shedd Aquarium
(the largest and oldest aquarium
in the Western Hemisphere)
there was an exhibit where you
could touch sting-rays.
How cool is that?!?
 The Adler Planetarium
had state-of-the-art
shows about the cosmos,
but I found myself responding
to the original fixtures,
including these fabulous
art deco iconic representations
original to the building.

I was fascinated by this
old-time, low-cost
mechanical way of teaching people
about the night sky in their own city
at the Planetarium.
A box car of visitors
goes into the sphere
with a guide
who points out the constellations
made by the pinpricks of light
that have been punched into
the sphere.
They show up perfectly in the dark.
This contraption is 100 years old!
It's still going strong.

Look, World!
This is the planet's largest
public library building.
I can't even fit it into one photo.
Who built it?
My people, Midwesterners!
The exquisite Winter Garden
on the top floor of
Chicago Public Library.
Boo-yah!
This is the greatness of my country.
We are a marketplace of ideas
where the people themselves
are entrusted to evaluate them.
I was grateful to see
Senator William Fulbright's
words on the walls
at Chicago Public Library.
I fear his wisdom is being forgotten
Before becoming an expat
I wouldn't have noticed
or understood how wonderful it is
that this spectacular Chicago synagogue
doesn't require 24/7 police protection.
That is not true
everywhere in the world.
May it ever be so in my country.
While in Chicago,
I watched a Palestinian protest
about Gaza
go through the streets
of Chicago.
I was struck by how the police
led and followed the demonstration
protecting the people demonstrating.
After watching Turkey's
best-educated youth
tear gassed all year
for wanting
to protect
Taksim Square's Gezi Park,
I was so grateful watching how this
Chicago protest was handled.
When I stepped up to
the police officer to say thanks,
he said,
"we are all about the first Amendment
and the exercise of free speech in Chicago."
I immediately teared up.
I was so damn grateful
for this attitude.


Being an expat makes
my gratitude
for America's
accomplishments even greater.
Rotary International started in Chicago.
I've been in four different Rotary Clubs
across America.
If you're a Rotarian,
I'd just like to say "thank you,"
for all that
you've done to help end polio.
If you're not familiar with Rotary,
let me tell you.
Each Rotarian, around the world,
doing their small part,
has collaborated to eliminate polio worldwide.
Rotarians are almost done,
 since there
are usually less than
5,000 cases a year globally.
Know a Rotarian? Thank them.
Don't know what polio is?
Thank them again!
This is Jenn and Alex,
my very first AirBnB hosts.
Jenn and Alex
were fantastic to stay with
while I was in Chicago.
This is the typical Chicago beach
two blocks from their house.
They taught me about Uber too
while I was there.
Plotting my explorations of Chicago
in Grant Park.

I'll share my very favorite thing
I was able to experience in Chicago
for the first time.

First and last photos
courtesy of Chicago photographer
Peter Yankala

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Gift to the Future

The Sidewalk Along
Barbaros Boulevard in Istanbul
 
One of the pleasures of my daily life in Istanbul is this sidewalk. Every time I walk on it, I am filled with gratitude for the thoughtful planner and builders who created it. The width of it seems extraordinarily luxurious in a crowded city.
 
Trees were planted long ago by people who would never get to experience them grown the way I do everyday when I walk under them. These people created a gift to the future.
 
I always ask myself when I am walking here, "did I plant a gift to the future today?"
 
 
 
 
 
You might also enjoy these other posts with amazing walks:
 
 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An afternoon of nargile at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

 My friend Barb and I had planned to meet a bunch of friends in Istanbul's Yıldız Park for a fitness challenge this weekend. Unfortunately, none of them showed up! We lost our motivation to explore the park. "Let's go across the street to the fumoir in the Cırağan Palace and I'll teach you to smoke nargile," I said. So we did.
First, we wanted to explore the palace.
A view of the Palm Court
from the Grand Staircase.
Imaginative use of glass
creates an aesthetically-pleasing
 foyer within the grand stairwell.
The glass chandelier was unlit
but we could imagine its warm glow.
Cırağan Palace Kempinski artwork
of ladies like us
enjoying the Bosphorus
back in the day.
A view of the Bosphorus
from the Sultan's balcony.
The hospitable and lovely Barçak
at the Hendrick's gin cart
Nargile pipes at rest
The eye-catching array of nargile water pipes
and the pots of fruit flavors
waiting for us to choose.
I suggested apple flavoring
because it is most popular.
Our drinks arrived
and rested on cloth coasters.
They were served alongside Mediterranean treats
of olives, hazelnuts, and cashews.
An Istanbul still life!
The drinks were so quenching!
A refreshing slice of cucumber
set off a glittering gin and tonic.
The drink on the right was gin
infused with rose flavoring.
It was called the Sebestian Vettel
(named for a famous Formula 1 driver).
We selected it from the part of the beverage menu
that showcased drinks
celebrities chose when they stayed there.
Barb said Hendrick's gin was especially known for the
herbaceousness of its flavor.
Naruttin primed the coals
and showed us where the flavoring
went in the pipe.
I'm always struck how by deeply
nargile staff breathe in the smoke.
They prime the pump
by getting the coals burning.
Barb about to try her first puff.
Each smoker uses a disposable tip
that they remove every time they pass the pipe.
It is the yellow part at the top of the pipe.
Barb's first puff of nargile.

Not a bad spot for a relaxing
afternoon conversation.
The expat life!
With typical American attitudes about smoking (we're both against it and find it unattractive), neither of us thought we'd ever try nargile. Yet living in Istanbul makes one appreciate the joy of slowing down, breathing deep, and engaging in conversation with a fellow human being in an unhurried, almost meditative manner.
 
I like this tradition better than the American tradition of staring at a screen in a sports bar and not talking to each other much. Sharing nargile seems very intimate and close. Besides, it was fun to watch the staff set up for a wedding happening later that night under the palms.
 
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Yıldız Park Bridal Beauty

An exquisitely dressed bride
smiles on her way to her photo shoot
Every weekend in Yıldız Park in Beşiktaş, brides come to have their photos taken amidst the greenery of the park. It is so fun to see the variety of head coverings and dresses. This bride's beauty stopped me cold.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Woman in White

Twilight beckons on the Bosphorus
But the Woman in White is unmoved.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Polarization is a Choice

 A photo of the Beşiktaş Forum,
a nightly neighborhood discussion
happening in my neighborhood park
and twenty other parks throughout Istanbul
where citizens discuss the future of the protests
and the future of their country.
I feel deeply lucky to have experienced the Turkish protests and to watch citizen engagement on a level never before experienced in Turkey. I plan to write about the experience, but frankly, it has been so interesting, I couldn't even tear myself away from watching it long enough to write about it. It makes me appreciate that real journalists get that done and do it on deadline too.

As an expat, I am constantly reflecting on how events in the country I am living in are related to the events from my country of origin. One of the most astounding experiences of the whole Gezi Park protests has been the level of polarization (which I wrote about here in my last post).

How polarized has it been? So polarized that the Turkish government talks about bringing in the military to restore order. Citizens discuss the possibility that there could be a civil war. I thought that I had experienced polarization in America during George W. Bush's Presidency, but this makes the Bush Presidency look like child's play. Even the clothes are different, as if each team has a uniform.

Shockingly, it wasn't until I watched this play out among the Turks that it occurred to me that polarization is a choice. When the American people were polarized, we allowed ourselves to be manipulated into doing that. We didn't have to buy that, but we did. We chose to respond to manipulative language and to allow ourselves to demonize our fellow citizens, even though we know in our hearts that what makes our country great is the range of contributions from everyone.

How boring and "trailing edge" Americans must have been during that period. One constant verbal or online sledgehammer to each other for eight years. It's so unproductive and dehumanizing. As we, the American people, beat up on each other by choosing polarized news sources and polarized web sites, other countries have gotten on with business while we spent our billions indulging in a war in Iraq America wishes it could forget. In a globalized world, the country that chooses to be divided, falls behind.

If I could offer advice to my Turkish friends based on my eight years of living through the George W. Bush presidency it would be to understand that polarizing language is manipulative language. If you buy into it, you're allowing yourself to be manipulated. Take care of your personal relationships, invite your most opposite philosophically-different friend over for dinner and break bread together. Just because dialogue doesn't occur at your highest level, doesn't mean dialogue can't occur at the citizen level.
(the meal where Muslims break their fast
after a day of no food or water)
Official White House Photo
by Chuck Kennedy
Breaking bread together is such a fundamental practice. That's why it means so much to me to see my President celebrate Ramadan or Diwali or Passover. During that meal time, my President is contemplating and learning from someone who is different than him. He is respecting and celebrating their traditions. He is honoring them. Is there any reason we, the people who live all over the world, can't do that too?

I read recently that members of the American Congress are so polarized, and there is so much money at stake in each decision, that they no longer undertake this practice of breaking bread with their opposite. It shows. Congressional approval ratings hover around 10% and they famously work to keep the status quo rather than move the country forward.

Polarization is a choice. I'm no longer going to buy it. How about you?


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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gezi Park Turkish Protests: Where is a "Range of Opinion?"

Protesters doing yoga in Gezi Park
What a fascinating week in Turkey as my friends have risen up and demanded their Turkish democracy be inclusive of their lifestyles and opinions too. I say "my friends" because, like most expats, I have a few friends who support the AKP and hundreds who don't. Most of my Istanbullian friends are broadly secular, supportive of the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and are internationally-oriented global citizens. So they are completely unrepresentative of the average Turk, and especially, the average Turk who voted in the AKP-majority government.
A Turkish friend who protests
In story after story about the protests, the range of opinions reported has been very narrow. It is very easy for Westerners in Istanbul to identify with the protesters, because they are asking for things that Westerners consider foundational for a democracy: respect for minority opinion, respect for diversity of lifestyle, respect for the variety of religious expression, and respect for freedom of the press. The protests started with concern about the pace of urban transformation and sense of loss for vital green spaces within one of the world's largest cities. All of these ideas that the protesters are demanding have been ably, bravely, and amply reported. The protesters' voices are heard in story upon story in the English-language press. But you'll notice, there isn't a big range of opinion there. The protesters seem unified around these thoughts.

The views of government supporters and of the government has been very hard to find. I've been trying to find those opinions, because as a library professional, my job and my joy and my mission in life is to share information on all sides of issues. While the protesters are organized in both Turkish and English on social media and are also available in the park for easy interviewing, AKP folks must be talking to themselves on Twitter and Facebook almost exclusively in Turkish. Journalists are flying in from all over the World to cover this story, but with today's news budgets, having a translator is an extra expense some news organizations may not have. I have read hardly anything reflecting the AKP view.
Six Turkish Newspapers
All With the Same Headline
Where is a "range" of opinion
(on either side)?
The Turkish media had six front pages all with the same headline in Turkish to reflect to Turkish people the 'official' government opinion when Prime Minister Erdogan came back from North Africa; this shows there is not much deviation in the AKP opinion either. Even worse for the AKP and its supporters, their opinions aren't being expressed in English.

Even at the friendship level we expats rarely hear these AKP opinions, simply because many AKP people have not taken the time to learn a global language so they can express themselves to the world.
Protest banner decrying police brutality

These narrow bands of opinion seem to be a Venn diagram of two circles, one labeled "protesters" and one labeled "AKP." The circles seem not to have overlapping parts. Because each side seems mostly to talk to like-minded friends there is also the danger of online filter bubbles.

I remember this kind of polarization in the Bush years in America. It's the kind of opportunity Obama walked into, rallying everyone around the center. I don't know if there is a center in Turkey, but it is unoccupied at the moment - unlike Gezi Park.
 
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