Culture minister ‘open to suggestions’ on contested cultural center

Culture minister ‘open to suggestions’ on contested cultural center

Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA
Culture minister ‘open to suggestions’ on contested cultural center Issues related to arts and culture should not be turned into “fields of tension,” Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal has said, adding that he was “always open” to listening to suggestions for the future of the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Gathering with Ankara-based journalists on April 27, Ünal shared information about the projects on the ministry’s agenda. 

“I am against turning arts and culture related issues into fields of tension. I made a statement that ‘Turkey has a strong opera tradition.’ A small-scaled discussion began on ‘whether there was an opera tradition in Turkey.’ How nice. Or we can discuss another debate related to our arts and culture world. But let us not turn this into a tension line, a fault line,” said Ünal, adding that there were “tension lines” formed over the AKM and the Turkish National Commission for the Seismology and Physics of the Earth (TUSAK) and that he does not want to “tackle on these lines.”

“If there is anyone who has an opinion on this issue, I am always open to listening to them,” said Ünal, adding, “It cannot be the case for the state to impose a culture or a form of art here. The state does not impose content; the state creates a base for society to produce its own culture and art.”  

Located in Taksim Square in Beyoğlu, a district in the heart of Istanbul, the AKM has been unused for the past eight years. The center, which is one of the focal buildings representing the republican-era Turkish architecture, has been at the heart of a heated debate, which flared up after government officials announced intentions to demolish or renew it. 

Ünal also talked about the ministry’s plans for the Ankara Cultural Center, which were announced by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on April 21 at the 64th Government Sustainable Cultural Development Program Introductory Meeting. 

Ünal said what they planned for the center was not just to build a museum but a wide-scale project which would have culture and arts venues that would “befit the capital Ankara.” 

“We are thinking of a big ‘Ankara Cultural Külliye’ which will bear the story of Anatolia up to today in the heart of Ankara as well as having a national library, a museum, art galleries, art workshops for traditional arts, theater salons and convention centers in it,” said Ünal.  

The minister also touched upon a new project to put “city classes” into the secondary education curriculum. Ünal said the project, which will also be signed by the Education Ministry, will educate students on their cities’ history, culture, venues of culture and the arts and museums.