Remembering cultural values of republic

Remembering cultural values of republic

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed a strong disapproval for the arts and culture of the Turkish Republic during the unveiling of plans for Istanbul’s new Atatürk Culture Center (AKM) on Nov. 6.

When we look at the relevant part of his speech, we find an angry view in reaction to a perceived “monopoly on art and culture.” 

“This country cannot fulfill the modernization goal set during the foundation of the Republic. Turkey is doomed to a cultural output below even the simple level of imitation,” said Erdoğan.

“Which world renowned works of art have been produced by those who talk about modernization, Westernization and Europeanization, every time they speak? Have such people managed to come up with a world renowned opera singer, pop artist, actor or guitarist? Just as we have failed to produce a world renowned automobile, airplane, computer or telephone operating system, we have also failed in the areas of art and culture. The cultural climate and mindset are the real issues here. When the climate is desolate, nothing flourishes,” said the president.

I do not believe the president gave due credit to the achievements of this country’s artists since the foundation of the republic. 

Speaking of “world renowned success,” how can we ignore Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, who has sung in the most important opera halls in the world, including La Scala?

Should we avoid mentioning the international success of Turkish pianists İdil Biret and the sisters Güher and Sühel Pekinel?

Are we going to forget pianist Fazıl Say, who performs in a different city in the world every week, and more than qualifies as an internationally celebrated musician?

If the president is thinking of pop music, ought we to omit the jazz, rock and pop artists signed by the famous Ahmet Ertegün, a record company owner, or Arif Mardin, an arranger with 10 Grammy awards and record producer?

With regard to cinema, should we discount the successes of Turkish directors Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who received the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) and Semih Kaplanoğlu, who received the Golden Bear award in the Berlin International Film Festival only in the last 10 years?

London’s Tate Modern, which is one of the four biggest museums in the world, featured an exhibition of the paintings Fahrelnissa Zeid from June 13 to Oct. 8. Does this not prove she is a world renowned artist?

How about painter Erol Akyavaş, whose art work is on show at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York, one of the top four museums in the world, and sculptor İlhan Koman? Should we forget Turkish painters Mübin Orhon and Nejad Devrim, both of whom have work at the Paris Modern Art Museum? 

Alev Ebüziyya has exhibited in 33 different museums around the world. And in literature, there is the acclaimed author Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. What about them?

Besides, does this issue only concern approval from the world?
Should we neglect those artists, who hail from every area of art, simply because they have not received international recognition?

An even more important point is: Thanks to the establishment of the Republic, thousands of people were raised in every area of culture and arts ranging from theater, cinema, music and plastic arts.

All of these people have collectively created a value so great, it is difficult to measure. They have enriched this country and society. Are we going to neglect their services, their values, their efforts?

Remembering such values after Nov. 10, when everyone commemorated the 79th death anniversary of Atatürk, and crowd gathered at Anıtkabir (Atatürk’s mausoleum in the capital Ankara), reflects the debt of gratitude we owe to the founder of our Republic.  


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,