JOOST – KadInlar: goddesses-harem-power

KadInlar: goddesses-harem-powerI have to admit: It is a rather unusual title for my column, and I did not make it up myself. It is the name of an extraordinary exhibition that opens today, March 14, in the Twentse Welle Museum in Enschede, the main city in the eastern part of the Netherlands.

On display are hundreds of objects related to 10 inspiring women from all periods of Turkish history, from the early kingdoms of classical antiquity and the Byzantine and Seljuk Empires to the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. The 10 women are: Cybele (mother goddess), Artemis (goddess of fertility), Mary (mother of Jesus), Theodora (prostitute who became empress), Melike Mama Hatun (female ruler), Mihri Hatun (poet), Ksem Sultan (mother of the reigning sultan and leader of the harem), Dilhayat Kalfa (composer), Halide Edib AdIvar (writer) and Halet ambel (archeologist).

The exhibition wants to make Turkeyand#39s splendid past come to life by presenting 10 inspirational women. As Dutch Ambassador to Turkey Ron Keller put it: andquotThis is a pioneering project.

Turkeyand#39s story has never before been told in this way. Too often history is presented as the story of male leaders.

These 10 women were ahead of their times. This exhibition will cast another light on this part of the world and its history.

andrdquoI met guest curator and visual artist Lotje de Lussanet and her husband, Henk Boom, a couple of years ago when they had just started working on the exhibition, trying to collect a wide variety of religious and cultural artifacts from several Turkish museums. Boom knew Turkey well after writing his book andldquoThe Great Turkandrdquo on Suleyman the Magnificent, which was also translated into Turkish in 2012.

Over the years they kept me informed about the progress made (or the lack thereof) and I must say one can only admire their perseverance. It was often frustrating to try and strike a deal with the museums and the Turkish authorities on issues such as transport, insurance and security.

There were times it seemed impossible to get hold of the objects they wanted to exhibit. But they managed and every visitor will admit their efforts were worthwhile.

The exhibition brings together 130 exhibits from 11 Turkish museums, including the TopkapI Palace Museum, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and the Pera Museum On top of that, De Lusanet managed to get 50 objects from other European museums in Berlin, Athens and Vienna The result is a unique collection of musical instruments, icons, paintings, miniatures, textiles and jewelry drawn from 3,000 years of Turkish and Anatolian history.But it is not only history that is on display in Enschede.

Alongside the exhibition, the museum will organize lectures and workshops on Turkish music, food and other aspects of Turkeyand#39s rich culture. During the exhibition, in short video clips 10 modern Turkish women living in Turkey and the Netherlands tell their stories about the obstacles they had to overcome and their plans for the future.

Among them are star volleyball player Neslihan Demir, conductor Inci zdil, actress Funda Mujde, singer Karsu Dnmez, entrepreneur Melek Usta and journalist Fidan Ekiz.This link with the present situation of Turkish women makes the exhibition more than only a beautiful encounter with a past that is unknown to most inside and outside Turkey.

As the director of the Twentse Welle Museum put it, andquotWith this project we want to modify the perception of Turkey that many people in the Netherlands have.andrdquo In other words: Yes, Turkey has been and is still in many ways dominated by men.

But there have always been inspiring and courageous women as well who are often forgotten or discarded in the official and established version of history.The efforts by women to reclaim history and correct todayand#39s wrongdoings are often triggered by current injustices or tragic events such as the recent brutal murder of zgecan Aslan.

This rich and multifaceted exhibition presents a positive incentive to see Turkeyand#39s past in a different light and draw some inescapable conclusions for the present and the future.The only question unanswered at the moment: When will this exhibition come to Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman