Karakutu Association conducts ‘Memory Walks’ online

Karakutu Association is a recipient of our COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund. Karakutu has experienced financial challenges as a result of measures taken regarding COVID-19 which made it more difficult to raise funds. Karakutu will use this grant to contribute to the salary of an employee who is responsible for coordinating the activities of the organisation and cover costs related to renting and accounting.

Please see below the interview with Karakutu Association. 

In Search of Justice Seminars (Adalet Arayışı Seminerleri), which was started in 2017, continued online during the outbreak. Can you tell us about the aim and scope of these seminars? What are the advantages and disadvantages of carrying out the seminars online?

“In Search of Justice Seminars” is a series of seminars where academics, researchers, and activists present their work on confrontation with the past and social memory. In these seminars, we discuss human rights violations and social movements in the context of the pursuit of justice. In these seminars, we aim to improve the knowledge and capacity of everyone who is interested in these areas, especially our young volunteers.

The most positive aspect of realising our seminars online is to reach more participants. Previously, only participants who were in Istanbul at the specified date and time could watch our seminars. Considering the difficulty of transportation in Istanbul, it was quite hard for the participants to be physically present in the seminar. Participants from all over Turkey and perhaps the world can watch our publications online. In addition, the number of our speakers has increased with online seminars, now we can invite speakers from outside of Istanbul or Turkey to our seminars. However, I also think that not being able to come together physically diminished the importance of “being in the moment”. For this reason, the interaction between the participants and the speakers decreases considerably in online seminars. The same applies to participants’ interaction with each other. In the face-to-face seminars, participants show active participation in the question and answer sessions, while this participation is relatively lower in online seminars. At the same time, while other participants can communicate, talk and discuss during breaks or at the end of the seminar in a face-to-face environment, such an interaction is not possible on online platforms. This situation weakens the seminar’s feature of being a meeting place.

You launched the 5th term of the Adnan Ergeç Fund this year and you recently published the call for Nurcan Z. Çarıkçı Engizek Young Women Fund. As the Karakutu Association, why do you provide these funding opportunities, and what is their contribution to the field you work on?

Adnan Ergeç Fund aims to support young researchers, people working in culture and art studies, and their research projects on collective memory, facing the past, social peace and equality, and prevention of discrimination in Turkey. Whereas the Nurcan Z. Çarıkçı Engizek Fund was founded in the early months of 2020 to support young women researchers who work in the field of social memory, women’s rights, gender, and animal rights in Turkey. We will determine the first female researchers that will be supported in the upcoming months. We think that these funds are very important for young people to develop and conduct their own research. The researchers working in the abovementioned fields in Turkey need support in terms of financial resources. Such funds encourage young people to work, research, and produce in these fields by appreciating and supporting their ideas and work. With this kind of support mechanism, young people are more motivated to bring their research ideas to life. With these funds, we aim to provide support to the young people who want to be productive in these fields in academia and culture-arts studies where the ideas of young people are generally undermined.

Within the scope of the Memory Journey (Hafıza Yolculuğu) program, which is one of the main activities of Karakutu Association, you organize various training and capacity building workshops to increase the number of Young Narrators you work with and to create new routes to explore memory places. Can you tell us about the role of Young Narrators and the scope of your work together?

We can say that our young volunteers form the basis of Karakutu’s work. Our volunteers participate in the initial training within the scope of the Memory Journey Program choose a memory place they want to work on and together with their mentors, they start to work on this place. In this process, they continue to participate in capacity-building training, seminars, and workshops. When their work on the selected memory place is completed, they become the narrators of that place and they convey the story of the place to the young participants during the Memory Walks (Hafıza Yürüyüşleri).

In our capacity-building workshops, we work on issues that will strengthen the participants intellectually and methodologically within the framework of human rights and confronting the past in Turkey. We carry out our workshops using interactive methods in which various experts share their knowledge and experience and, at the same time, our young volunteers actively participate.

Apart from being researchers and narrators, our volunteers can also help the association’s other work in line with their interests. The main concern in all our activities is to open up space for the ideas and needs of the young people. We are constantly trying to reorganize and update all of our work with the feedback from our participants and volunteers.

You have recently completed the core grant process we provided with the co-financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation under our COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund. How did you use this grant and what were its main contributions to your work?

We used this grant to cover our human resources and administrative expenses for a period of four months. Human resources is a very important factor for the sustainability of our work. Meeting our needs with this grant prevented us from experiencing a decline in our programs, fundraising activities, and developing partnerships in the outbreak period. We had difficulty finding the financial resources to meet human resource expenses as a result of reduced funding and donation opportunities due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With this grant, we covered our basic expenses and got the opportunity to use our own resources for the association’s ongoing activities. These activities include initial training for Young Narrators and capacity building workshops, In Search of Justice Seminars and Memory Walks for youngsters and adults. Thanks to our basic expenses covered by the grant, we were able to continue these efforts for another four months.

What will be the areas and activities that will be prioritised by the Karakutu Association in 2021?

As a result of the outbreak, we moved many of our activities to online platforms. In 2021, we will work on different methods to improve our online seminars, workshops and memory walk.  We hesitated a lot before conducting our Memory Walks online. We were afraid that not being physically present in memory places would result in a loss of the essence and meaning of the experience. But with the start of the weekend curfews, we transferred our Memory Walks to online platforms. In 2021, we will work to improve this method and try to bring online activity as close as possible to the face-to-face experience.

We also plan to continue our In Search of Justice Seminars more thematically. In addition to the existing seminars, we are working on developing thematic seminar modules. Again, we are trying to adapt these activities to the online platforms in the best possible way. We are also planning to organise two more introductory training where we will meet with our new volunteers. We will work on new memory places and routes with our young volunteers who have recently joined Karakutu. As part of the program, we will continue with the capacity-building workshops for our volunteers. Apart from all these, as always, we will continue to think and produce new projects with and for young people on issues such as human rights, social memory and discrimination.

About Karakutu Association

Karakutu Association aims to create awareness on human rights  and democratic values by critically evaluating the causes and  consequences of historical injustices. The alternative narratives  that were suppressed by official history are introduced with  different perspectives about the past to society, especially to  young people, by conducting Memory Walks and seminars on  discrimination and human rights violation with a focus on  collective memory and/or facing the past. Karakutu also  supports young researchers with Adnan Ergeç Fund, workshops  and training programmes and implements intercommunity  historical dialogue projects.