The day of the elephants in Ibrahimpaşa

Our friends, artists Sonja van Kerkhoff and Sen McGlinn came and visited us in IIbrahimpaşa for a couple of days. We met Sonja and Sen In Istanbul at ISEA2011. Sonja and I met after my paper session and we immediately hit it off, sharing many similar thoughts about cultural engagement and identity in our work and research.

Some of their work (also collaborating with Toroa Pohatu) was included in Uncontainable: Second Nature, which was presented at Cumhuriyet Art Gallery and curated by Ian Clothier with an advisory panel of Nina Czegledy, Trudy Lane and Tengaruru Wineera. The exhibition crosses cultural and discipline boundaries. Here is a statement from the show:

A cultural bridge has been constructed, based on a framework of both Māori and European knowledge. Five themes from within European and Māori world views were located: cosmological context, all is energy, life emerged from water, anthropic principle and integrated systems. All the selected works address more than one of these thematic regions.

Here are some pictures of their work titled Kāinga a roto | Home within:

Kāinga a roto | Home within by Sen McGlinn, Toroa Pohatu + Sonja van Kerkhoff, 2011

Kāinga a roto | Home within by Sen McGlinn, Toroa Pohatu + Sonja van Kerkhoff, 2011

Kāinga a roto | Home within by Sen McGlinn, Toroa Pohatu + Sonja van Kerkhoff, 2011

Kāinga a roto | Home within by Sen McGlinn, Toroa Pohatu + Sonja van Kerkhoff, 2011

Kāinga a roto | Home within is a highly complex work conceptually and in terms of its construction. Sonja and Sen spent considerable time searching for the materials to construct the installation, and were aided by the Gypsy community where they were staying.  At the completion of the exhibition, the building materials will be returned to the community. As you can see from the image above, there are five screens, all with different looping footage.

I found this work very moving and evocative – with it’s many layers of sound and image, spoken word and song, speaking of personal, cultural and environmental experience. It was also a wonderful space to sit in and lose yourself in the work, having a powerful mediative quality.

While we were in Istanbul we were fortunate to meet some of the people in the Gypsy community who Sonja and Sen had developed friendships with. One evening we had a wonderful time at one of their friends houses, sitting under a beautiful fig tree in Dolapdere.

Sonja van Kerkhoff - performance in Istanbul

Sonja van Kerkhoff - performance in Istanbul

From our meetings in Istanbul, we encouraged Sonja and Sen to travel to Cappadocia, as they were wanting to see some other regions of Turkey. We also discussed the possibility of Sonja repeating a performance she had done in Istanbul as part of ISEA2011. See picture on the right.

In this performance, Sonja wears some traditional Maori objects, given to her by Maori friends, making a connection to her home country of New Zealand (Sonja and Sen have lived in The Netherlands for over 20 years).

The performance involves Sonja placing a series of origami elephants into a row, from one point to another. Each of the elephants is made from a piece of newspaper collected on their travels around Europe (Sonja and Sen travel extensively in a converted van, which is also their home on the road).

Yesterday, Sonja repeated the performance in the village square of Ibrahimpaşa, which created a great deal of interest from the men who drink tea at the tea house. In Ibrahimpaşa, men and women live very separately, so you will not find village women drinking tea at the teahouse. This is another subject that will be explored in a later blog.

Here are some images of the perfromance in Ibrahimpaşa

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

The elephant walk - performance by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Our host Willemijn very kindly translated questions from observers. Many were curious about why the objects were elephants and not camels, as there is the history of camels being used in Turkey along the silk road, which traverses through southern Cappadocia.

From what I understand, the villagers liked her performance and it certainly raised some questions about ‘what is art’ to the audience.

We wish Sonja and Sen safe travels and we hope to meet them again sometime soon.

Sonja and Tracey

Sonja and Tracey

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