Controversies at the banquet for artists

Controversies at the banquet for artists

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan frequently complains about the worsening of the culture and arts scene. At an iftar dinner given for artists in Istanbul’s Huber Mansion, he mentioned the same issue. 

He argued that the state should not become the employer in culture and arts but a supporter of quality works. The president has been after these reforms for 14 years, which would free the artists from becoming civil servants. 

Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avcı was also among the participants; he must have gotten the message. However, there is a group of culture and arts businesspeople who thrive on orders coming from the government, who love to do business with the state. I wonder if that segment received any messages. 

Who designs Beştepe policies?

Unfortunately, Erdoğan spoke to a group of guests who actually prove his point. The exceptions were very few; I exclude the masters; but the guests were like a concrete example of the desertification of culture. Most of them are like living proofs. If you say shallowness in arts, the people responsible were there. 

Our average culture and arts environment is much higher than the participants. This iftar’s guests were the ones who lower the standard. I wonder who made the list of the attendants, despite Erdoğan’s views. 

I am sure Erdoğan is genuinely uncomfortable with the course of events. At every opportunity he strongly emphasizes the deep sadness he feels. 

These guys who plan Beştepe’s culture and art programs, are they ever affected after they listen to the president? 

When it is culture, maybe they only think of tabloid celebrities. When art is the question, they can only think of pop and tavern music, the actors in violent TV serials. That, I would not even oppose too much. I would say that’s what they see on the surface of culture and art. 

But not even this. The guests were made up of judges of a contest at an entertainment channel and the singers of a music company. Participants outside this picture were random or just for show. They have been scattered around to camouflage the links, to create variety. 

It is as if the determinant criteria were interest and influential contacts. For instance, conservative singer Mustafa Ceceli has been excluded, they say, because of the recent fluctuations in his private life. If this is the reason for being excluded from the iftar invitation, then why weren’t the others, who have daily scandals, not excluded? If you are a part of a certain team, everything is free for you; is that so? 

Erdoğan is talking about favoring classical Turkish music, opera and theater, which are endangered. He wants to positively discriminate them. But the practice is just the opposite. 

In the iftar dinner, there were no masters, state artists or internationally-famous performers. 

The president associates the shallowness in culture and arts to the ideological hegemony of a certain segment. He is right. There are ideological gangs like the mafia who do not include anybody from outside. But the former culture, art and literature mafia had quality issues, an intellectual depth and pangs of productivity, at least. The new grouping that puts interest partnerships at its center cannot even be called a culture and arts mafia.