Traditional arts of North Cyprus, Hungarу and Adygea
We continue to discover traditional world arts. This time we present conversations with creative people representing Cyprus, Hungary and Caucasian Circassians. We had a possibility to communicate with these artists during the International Festival of Culture and Arts that was held in the Istanbul province B.Çekmece in the period of the late June — early July this year.
In Cyprus people enjoy embroidery and products from silkworm cocoons; Hungary is famous for it’s textiles in different red shades, and as for the Turkish representative from Caucasian Circassians, he reflects the culture and traditions of his people in metal structures... But first things first.
North Cyprus still jealously preserves traditional motifs in embroidery. At first glance, its «star» which is embroidered on purses, tablecloths — is very similar to the Ukrainian «mallow», as I said to Aisha Tuncha — one of masters, representing the Cypriot embroidery at the festival. Nevertheless, we agreed that there are many symbols known around the world, and this particular is one of them.
Some products on display were made by Aisha and some were created by other artists. The master said that they had been embroidering in her family since the early 20th century. Still, hand embroidery is very popular in Cyprus. In addition, a specialized cooperative was established in those parts which attracted many housewives and older women. The cooperative provides women with free materials and they are working at home on various textiles (shirts, tablecloths, napkins, purses, paintings); they decorating them in the traditional Cypriot style. Afterwards, things created by the masters are bought by the cooperative; i. e. the cooperative pays for the manual labor. In this way, women are socially integrated, active and have got financial support.
At the same time, machine embroidery is now becoming more popular. Without changing the traditional motifs, textiles for everyday use and decoration are created for masses.
Creation of decorative items from silkworm cocoons is also well-known. This insect is still cultivated on special farms in Turkey and Cyprus. It’s interesting that colors of the cocoons grown in different countries vary — in Turkey they are white, but they are yellow in Cyprus. And the master was not able to explain the reason of this difference.
Circassian blacksmith art. Adygea
57-year-old blacksmith Orhan Halman, though born in Istanbul, has got Circassian ancestors. His works, forged from metal, clearly display this fact. The outlines of musicians in folk costumes, playing traditional musical instruments; silhouettes of boys and girls that spin in national dances; strict lines of soldiers that squat tracking down attackers, or that saddle horses and rush into battle with an enemy. At this, looking aside you can see the silhouette of a man who has raised a horn of wine at dinner, and maybe you’ll be able to distinguish a shape of a blacksmith in his workshop concentrated at something he is working at (only later you’ll learn that this is an image of Tlyeps, the Circassian God of metal). Orhan portrays the culture of his people very skillfully and accurately using simple lines, forged and specially bent metal plates — its traditions, ethnic characteristics, mentality features, plots from the history.
By the way, Circassians is one of the Adygea peoples of the North Caucasus (Russia), whose ancestors massively emigrated to the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the XIX century from the oppression of the imperial Russia after adding the Caucasian lands to its territory.
The number of Circassians in Russia according to Census 2010 was a bit over 700,000, while in Turkey, according to Orhan, it’s 5 millions. Also Circassian communities reside in Georgia, Syria, Jordan and other countries in southwestern Asia.
For a long period of time Orhan wanted to know more about his origin, and then a few years ago he visited the Ethnographic Museum in Kabardino-Balkaria, and what he saw impressed him so much that later he began to sketch scenes from the life of the Circassians, and invented a new technique of working with metal, through which he was creating scenes from the history of his people.
"I wanted to show the culture of my nation to other people and in 2011 invented a way for this. Once upon a time there was genocide of the Circassian people: there was an attempt to destroy their culture, language and nationality. So people had to leave their country and to seek shelter in other lands "- says Orhan.
In order to collect all the available information in one place and to show the history and culture of his nation, Orhan is now creating Circassian Cultural Museum in the suburbs of Istanbul, and its construction is at the final stage. The Turkish blacksmith said that Circassians had many mythological gods, as for example the already mentioned god of iron or blacksmiths named Tlyepsh.
Also, each Circassian family or clan has its own symbol or emblem. They are even depicted at monuments on graves. «Circassians are guided by customary law. Every family has a group leader, who chooses the symbol of the family. The emblem is usually chosen based on the most common profession kind, following feelings and intuition. These symbols indicate the clan to which each person belongs. It's like a surname. In general, these characters are 5000 years old»- says Orhan.
Orhan has also told us about features of the Circassian man's costume, which has chest stripes in the shape of capsules.
"Astronauts use similar capsules with food. But only few know that years ago it were Caucasians who invented special food that could be stored for a long time and could be taken to war. It is cooked of beef and vegetables on fire for several days, and then it is put inside capsules. Each capsule gave a boost of energy per day. Georgians, Kuban Cossacks and Eastern Turks have similar costumes ...»
Hungarian traditional art
Almost all the things presented in the Hungarian part of the exhibition hall were authentic and brought to Turkey from Hungary ... in the decade of 1930. «At that time a Hungarian girl fell in love with a Turkish guy, married him and brought her dowry to Turkey in her wedding chest» — we are told about the owner of the antiquaries by a Hungarian artist Eva Aktyurk who has a similar life story. Being married to a Turk, she herself has been living in Turkey for 23 years. That woman in the story had four children who inherited all of these things. At present one of her daughters is 70 years old. Eva has been teaching the old lady's son Hungarian in Turkey for a while and that is how she learned the story of the woman.
„ Ataturk sent the best students abroad to study. The future husband of that girl studied in Germany, and when he returned to Turkey, he decided to visit Hungary: that was how the meeting took place. At present, two children of this woman live in Turkey and two others are in Germany. Only one of them is learning Hungarian and has the Hungarian citizenship“.
Red is the most popular color in Hungary. It originates from the paprika, which is favored among the Hungarians. Floral motifs are also common as well as all the flower colors.
Eva herself teaches people various types of decorative arts. She says that she does not consider herself a Turk and is still learning to live among Turks and to understand them»: to understand what they want, what they mean, what they are doing". She says when she comes home to Hungary, friends look upon her as a Turk and she is able to see the habbits of people from a Turkish point of view. But it is interesting that when Eva visits Turkish shops, it seems to her that sellers there are very fast but when she comes to Hungary, on the contrary, Hungarian sellers seem too slow. Yet it is hard to get used to the Hungarians for the woman-emigrant, as Turks are much warmer in communication.
Kateryna Kachur, Bohdan Hdal, Rukotvory
Translated by Yevhenia Koval