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New Turkish art village to express gratitude to Anatolia

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/24/2010 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

In a unique new art project, one of the main builders of Istanbul’s French Street will establish a new village entirely devoted to art in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, home of the Sufi poet Rumi. Known as the ‘Village of Gratitude,’ the site will have room for painting and sculpture workshops, concert halls and locations for film shoots

Turning the popular belief that the Central Anatolian province of Konya is a bastion of conservatism on its head, a new art initiative is planning to build a massive village dedicated solely to art.

The building of “Sükran Köyü” (the Village of Gratitude), will be directed by Mehmet Taşdiken, founder and executive board chairman of Istanbul’s Fransız Sokağı (French Street), previously known as Cezayir Street.

Taşdiken said the project, which is slated for completion in June, had great significance for him personally. “I was born in the Çavuş village of Konya. I have never forgotten the richness that this land gave to me. After long years I will go to my village to express my gratitude to it. This is why I have named it the ‘village of gratitude.’”

Konya, a province with a fast-growing industrial base, is best known as the final resting place of Rumi, a famous Sufi who settled in the city in the 13th century and began a Sufi order that preached tolerance and brotherhood.

[HH] Film setting in the village

According to Taşdiken, the art village, which will be built on a large, open plot of land, will be primarily constructed using bricks and soil so as to blend in with its surroundings.

Experts from Istanbul Technical University, meanwhile, are closely supervising the construction of the village that will host 45 structures, including painting and sculpture workshops, as well as concert halls.

Locations to shoot films, as well as the Cinema-Television and Plastic Arts departments of the Konya Selçuk University will also open in the village.

Taşdiken said the village would be located five kilometers away from Konya’s city center.

Although such a comprehensive arts center might be perceived as a tourist attraction, Taşdiken said he had no plans to promote the village as a tourist site so as to prevent its commercialization.

“When tourism is highlighted in a place, its value decreases and materiality comes to the fore. The system is indexed to money. We hope that the Village of Gratitude will be a place full of art and culture. We want artists to create their works in peace,” Taşdiken said.

[HH] Conservative Konya?

Apart from Rumi, Konya is most closely associated with political and social conservatism within the court of Turkish public opinion. Taşdiken, however, said: “I don’t agree that Konya is a conservative city. Unfortunately, our media and politicians portray Konya as a conservative city. This is wrong.”

He said the villagers of Çavuş would be invited to all the art events at the village.

Giving another example from Anatolia, Taşdiken said, “Until 10-15 years ago, being Anatolian was regarded as a drawback and was shameful. The people of Istanbul used to denigrate Anatolians, saying ‘provincial people.’ It was like a label on people.”

Taşdiken said he had similar difficulties while he was a student, but never denied his hometown. “Times have changed quickly. It is not a disadvantage to be an Anatolian anymore, but an advantage.”

Taşdiken has received extensive support from the Foundation for the Promotion and Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, or ÇEKÜL, as well as Çavuş Municipality.

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