‘Shared Sacred Sites’ in Istanbul

‘Shared Sacred Sites’ in Istanbul

‘Shared Sacred Sites’ in Istanbul

A new exhibition in Istanbul examines the coexistence of the three Abrahamic religions in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Balkans.

The “Shared Secret Sites” exhibition is showcased at Depo Gallery in Istanbul’s European district of Beyoğlu until July 14.

Versions of the same exhibition were held in Marseille, France, in 2015; Tunis, Tunisia, in 2016; Thessaloniki, Greece, and Paris, France, in 2017, and Marrakesh, Morocco, and New York City, United States, in 2018. The exhibition will open in Ankara this fall.

Organized in collaboration with Goethe-Institut in Istanbul, the sites highlighted in the exhibition are examples from a vast geographic territory that spans from France to Morocco and Turkey to Egypt. Relying on lessons from historical civilizations, the project argues that cross-cultural coexistence is a viable way to overcome the essentialism, isolationism, and hatred that sometimes characterize present-day life.

Despite theological differences, the three Abrahamic religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism - share a number of beliefs, rites, holy figures and sites. These crossovers, however, can sometimes lead to conflict. The Mediterranean world offers many examples of peaceful coexistence, but also of partition and division.

Curated by Dionigi Albera and Manoël Pénicaud, “Shared Sacred Sites” explores this phenomenon through various examples in different contexts and by highlighting the entangled places and practices, symbols and figures that define it.

Istanbul is ideally positioned to tell the story of “Shared Sacred Sites,” because the three monotheistic religions have historically flourished here and cohabited for centuries through the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

By combining contemporary art, photography, ethnographic material and digital media, the exhibition highlights the multisensory experience of pilgrimage and “sharing the sacred,” the visually compelling dimension of sacred sites and landscapes in the Balkans and the Mediterranean and Istanbul’s rich and multi-layered past of religious diversity and coexistence, according to the museum website.

The project is based on years of anthropological and historical research. Through each iteration of the exhibition, the overall theme has remained the same, but the form, content, and context change from one location to another.