Master of inlay art fears profession to be lost
Fevzi Çakmakçı, 70, who has been involved in the art of inlay for 63 years, which he learned from his grandfather when he was seven years old, fears that his ancestral profession will be lost as there is no one to maintain the art technique for future generations after him.
Çakmakçı, who has made portraits of many people including statesmen for years, is also the owner of the portrait shown behind the eighth president of Turkey, Turgut Özal, who came back to the podium with an injured hand after the assassination attempt in 1988.
Çakmakçı, who started to learn the art of inlay and carving from his grandfather at the age of seven in Kirkuk, Iraq, where he was born, immigrated to Turkey with his family.
Turning this craft into a profession while he was living in Ankara, Çakmakçı began to make portraits of statesmen on pieces of linden wood without using paint.
In 1988, Çakmakçı made a portrait of Özal, who was the prime minister of Turkey at the time, with the same technique and sent it to the Anavatan (Motherland) Party congress. Özal was injured in an assassination attempt at the congress.
After the attempt, Özal came back to the podium with his injured hand, and while he was giving a speech, the portrait by Çakmakçı was shown by the deputies behind him.
At the same time, Çakmakçı sent the portrait of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to him through the embassy. Çakmakçı, who was then invited to Saudi Arabia, stayed there for 15 days as the guest of King Fahd.
Devoting his life to his profession, Çakmakçı continues working in a small workshop in the southern province of Antalya. The biggest problem of Çakmakçı, who said that he couldn’t open an exhibition during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there is no one to maintain his profession after him.
“As was with my grandfather as a kid, I slowly started carving and then inlaying. We used to do silver embroidered works then. We immigrated to Turkey from Kirkuk in 1976, and I started to continue my job here. I was making portraits of the statesmen on linden trees. I made the engraving portraits of Turgut Özal, the King of Saudi Arabia and Rauf Denktaş.”
Çakmakçı stated that he was sorry for not being able to train anyone, adding, “I have been making this for 63 years. I searched for a professional of this art in Antalya, but I could not find anyone. If I find my colleagues, we can do good works. We cannot train anyone. When we want to give courses or lectures, there are always obstacles. I’m 70 years old now. I don’t know if there will be a master in this business after me. There are people I have trained, but they all do it as a hobby. This craft will disappear until they retire.”