Forgotten handcraft revived in Van prison
Until 1915, there were 120 savat ateliers in Van. But the art is practiced only by a handful of artisans now.
The goal now is to revive the centuries-old art. New savat artists are being trained in the silver processing workshops opened within the scope of a new project supported by the Van Open Prison, Justice Ministry and the Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses.
She said the idea emerged when they were thinking of what they could do for the city, with their priority being making cultural and economic contributions to Van.
Stating that most of the prisoners were from the region, Dede said, “We were thinking about providing jobs to them after leaving prison. We received great support from culture officials about the issue. We worked with an artist and agreed to open the ateliers in the prison. All materials have been provided by the Justice Ministry’s Department of Workshops Institution.”
Dede said they carried out works for prisoners in the field of basic education, literacy and occupation.
Successful despite being beginners
“We have decided to open such a workshop for prisoners to take part in the business sector after leaving prison and then applied to the ministry. Now we have two workshops where prisoners learn about all the details of savat. They receive their diplomas approved by the Education Ministry at the end of their training,” Dede said.
She added that the workshop opened six months ago and they established a sales shop in the Van Courthouse, saying that they aimed to open more shops in the city center to sell the products.
She said that despite processing silver for the first time, the prisoners had successfully created “nice” products.
“All prisoners learn about all the stages of silver work. I believe that they will improve with time. Upon orders, we send our products to other prisons. We have 16 trainees, five of whom are working here permanently. They get paid daily and have insurance. They will also get their recommendation letters when they leave,” she said.
“Here we process historical values and symbols of Van into jewelries. Among these are the tulip, Van cat and the Akdamar Island. We use pens while carving designs. There are very few savat artists right now. Prisoners are very willing to learn this art. This is why they show great interest in the workshop. They say they spend very good time here. They decide on their own models. They make their own designs and get happy when the works receive interest,” Burak said.