Queen of Snakes given due by master
ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Şahmaran master Abdulhamit Özcan processes the figure on materials like copper trays and glass objects. AA PhotosFollowing in his father’s footsteps, an artisan in the eastern province of Mardin is carrying on the tradition of creating images of the “Şahmaran,” the Queen of Snakes, by processing it on new materials such as copper trays, glass objects and even hotel walls.
Abdulhamit Özcan inherited the tradition from his father, Şahmaran master Hasan Özcan, to become the latest master of the handicraft of creating images of the Şahmaran, a legendary figure that is especially found in the eastern Anatolian districts of Nusaybin and Cizre.
“My grandfather learned it from an Armenian master, with whom he was working as an apprentice. We are processing Şahmaran on copper and glass objects,” Özcan recently told Anatolia news agency.
Özcan, who exhibited his works during last year’s Anatolia Culture and Food Festival in Los Angeles, is an artist recognized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
The artist now gives Şahmaran-processing classes to students at the Mardin Vocational High School for Girls but complained that he could not find an apprentice to keep the tradition alive.
“Unfortunately, the young generation is not interested in it. We have many unemployed young people, but they don’t want to learn this job. I am teaching it at the school but this is not enough [to continue the tradition],” he said.
Şahmaran decorates hotel walls
Özcan said there were hundreds of legends about the Queen of Snakes and that the image is known as the symbol of somberness and abundance.
Relating a story about the origin of the motif, he said: “The son of a vizier was taken to a desert by his friends and thrown into a well. After his friends leave, he finds a hole in the well and falls asleep there. When he wakes up, he sees that he is surrounded by snakes and dragons. One of them is the Queen of Snakes, the half-human and half-snake Şahmaran, to whom he tells his story of betrayal.”
After listening to his story, Şahmaran promises the young boy that she will rescue him, Özcan said. “Her only condition is that he should not tell anybody about her place. Then the son returns to his home and learns that the ruler of the country is too sick and needs to eat the flesh of Şahmaran to get better. The ruler announces that he will appoint the person who helps him find Şahmaran as the new vizier and give the hand of his beautiful daughter in marriage. The young boy betrays Şahmaran and tells the sultan about her place. The ruler’s men find Şahmaran, kill her and give her flesh to the ruler.”
Ultimately, Şahmaran’s goodwill to mankind is paid back with betrayal, Özcan said. “In this way, Şahmaran becomes the mortal enemy of mankind.”