HATICE KuBRA – Exhibition focuses on history of Taksim as heart of Istanbul

Exhibition focuses on history of Taksim as heart of IstanbulSome places in a city make you feel as if they know your language and speak with your soul, keeping you attracted to them and leaving marks in your life though you do not visit them that often. Taksim Square, where the heart of contemporary Istanbul beats faster than in any other quarter of the city, is one of such places which are hotspots for political and cultural life.

But the history of the place is either forgotten or rarely remembered, as Taksim has the power to absorb both Istanbulites and foreigners inside its daily tumult, making them put aside everything but the pleasure of strolling around it. The square, without any doubt, has gained more importance both inside and outside Turkey with last year’s Gezi Park protests, becoming one of the locations where social sensibility has reached its peak.

If you are a regular of the square or have special ties with it, the Suna and Inan KIra Foundation’s Istanbul Research Institute is offering you an exhibition which focuses on the history of Taksim, from the 18th century through the 20th century with photos, gravures and maps.On view until Oct.

11, the show “Taksim: The Heart of Istanbul” makes you feel as if you are the great-grandchild of a wise man who is holding your hand for a time travel which encompasses the periods when Taksim was a flat area surrounded by graveyards, then a site for football matches and significant celebrations, one of the symbols of the modern Turkish Republic with the installation of the Cumhuriyet AnItI (Republic Monument) and the foundation of Gezi Park.Gulru Tanman, the curator of the exhibition, told Sunday’s Zaman that the idea to unveil such a show resulted from putting some selected items from the foundation’s rich photography collection to good use and discussions about the reconstruction of an Ottoman-era military barracks — Topu Barracks — standing at the site of the present-day Gezi Park, and last year’s protests.

“Taksim, particularly in the early Republic period, had transformed into one of the strongest representational areas of the new regime, becoming the heart of Istanbul,” Tanman said, while saying why they named Taksim “the heart of Istanbul” in the exhibition.“In addition, the first public park of Istanbul, Taksim Bahesi [Taksim Park], whose former site is now occupied by the InterContinental Istanbul hotel, was here.

The Turkish national football team played its first football match at the barracks [whose internal courtyard had been converted into a stadium] against Romania”Photos of historic moments featureisitors can also see photographs of historic moments in the exhibition, which chronologically documents the development of the square. In one photo, the French balloonist Ernest Barbotte, joined by engineers and soldiers as well as Crown Prince Ibrahim Tevfik Efendi, conducts a flight from Talimhane (Training Field) in front of the barracks with his balloon “OsmanlI” in 1909.

Another photo, from June 29, 1923, shows a scene from a football match at which the Turkish football team Fenerbahe defeated by two goals to one a team made up of people from English and other military forces which had occupied Turkey following World War I, a match at the end of which Fenerbahe won the General Harrington Cup. Charles I, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is seen visiting the barracks in another photo.

All exhibition items were selected to complement each other in chronologically revealing the transformation of the square from a center for water distribution — the origin behind the name Taksim (distribution) — and strolling area to gaining military importance at the beginning of the 19th century with the barracks and then to becoming a city square in the 20th century, according to Tanman.For the Ottomans, Taksim was an area where they could enjoy drinking a cup of coffee looking over the Bosporus in a coffeehouse near the graveyards later, the barracks and Talimhane were added to this scene.

It became an area opening into Cadde-i Kebir — now Istiklal Street — along which there were embassy buildings, apartment complexes, different shops and entertainment places, the curator said.For the people of the early Republican period, the square represented the modern life the new regime offered it later turned into a square where national holidays, such as Youth and Sports Day, were celebrated.

At the Taksim Stadium, lots of sports events were held women were coming to the bleachers now, and modern apartment complexes were emerging near Talimhane, she continued.However, the exhibition does not feature photographs from contemporary Taksim, only focusing through the periods up until the 1970s.

The reason behind this is the similarity between contemporary Taksim and the square as it appeared following the opening of the Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM), Tanman said.“In addition, we remember the recent history of the square.

But, most Istanbulites do not know how Fenerbahe’s championship over the occupying forces during the occupation years created excitement among the public as if they had won a national victory the unveiling of the Cumhuriyet AnItI where the name of Talimhane comes from or why the barracks were demolished. It is helpful to remember what we have forgotten and lost to preserve the collective and urban memory as Istanbul changes quickly,” the curator ended.

The photos above show a public display of a shark, a balloon flight and a football match (L to R) held on the training field in front of Taksim’s Topu Barracks before they were demolished.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman