Kırkayak Culture Art and Nature Association (Kırkayak Kültür Sanat ve Doğa Derneği-Kırkayak Kültür) aims to create and increase contact among groups and individuals from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including migrants and refugees, in order to contribute to social cohesion and a culture of coexistence in Gaziantep. The association will use the grant and capacity development support from our Culture & Arts Fund to improve the capacity of its Arts Centre and culture and art programme by employing a programme coordinator and an art consultant.
Read below our interview:
Kırkayak Culture, Art and Nature Association is receiving a grant from us for the first time in the 2022 period of our Culture & Arts Fund. Can you tell us about the purpose and activities of your association?
Kırkayak Culture, Art and Nature Association (Kırkayak Kültür) was founded in Gaziantep in 2008 as a culture and arts initiative by a group of academics, artists, lawyers, doctors, and journalists. The initiative, which set out with the idea that culture and arts activities facilitate social cohesion and bring all segments of society together, officially became an association in 2011 to carry out cultural activities in Gaziantep. The association started to organise the Zeugma Film Festival and culture and arts events.
Following 2012, the association reorganised its activities to contribute to social cohesion and coexistence by working with disadvantaged groups, refugees, and migrants, including the Syrian refugee community. Kırkayak Kültür is working with a rights-based approach to support democratic values and create the conditions for a pluralistic coexistence.
Kırkayak Kültür carries out culture and arts programmes to revive cultural life in Anatolian cities with rich cultural heritage and to develop urban belonging with the concept of modern citizenship. The association is currently operating two centres, the Art Centre and the Centre for Migration and Cultural Studies, under six programmes: Migration, Urban Studies, Kitchen || Matbakh Workshop (Gender Equality), Media for Social Cohesion and Dom Studies.
Kırkayak Kültür is working with a rights-based approach to support democratic values and create the conditions for a pluralistic coexistence.
We aim to develop and disseminate cooperation between artists, culture & arts activists and civil society organisations from Turkey, the Middle East and Europe in the field of culture and arts in Gaziantep. In this direction, we carry out cultural, artistic, and social activities with women, youth, children, migrants, refugees, and other disadvantaged groups.
The Centre for Migration and Cultural Studies considers newcomers and their cultural accumulation as a contribution to the city’s cultural and artistic life. The centre carries out migration studies focusing on social cohesion, emphasising the importance of culture and arts activities in the process of two communities learning to live together.
You work with disadvantaged, refugee, and migrant artists. What do the artists you work with need to continue their production in Turkey? How do you create space for artists to produce and present their work?
Based on the experiences of Kırkayak Kültür’s founders, we believe that by sharing the arts and cultural sphere, mutual understanding and sensitivity will increase, and socio-economic differences and prejudices can be overcome. In this respect, we believe that shaping urban development by culture and establishing mutual relations in the field of art will facilitate social cohesion.
Since 2012, our newly arrived neighbours have provided us with new experiences on how to implement these ideas. We realised that, although we seem to be living parallel lives as separate communities in the same city, there were areas where we encountered one another. Culture and arts venues are where people come together even if they speak different languages. This is why we started to create projects and establish partnerships to carry out cultural, artistic and social activities with women, youth, children, migrants, refugees and other disadvantaged groups.
We started to carry out cultural exchange projects between Turkey, the Middle East, and European cities. Since then, we have started translating all our printed materials into Arabic. Through the partnerships we have established in Europe, we analysed different migration experiences to see how we can adapt these to our conditions. We started to read about the causes and consequences of migration and the social, economic, and cultural dimensions of international migration movements.
We realised that, although we seem to be living parallel lives as separate communities in the same city, there were areas where we encountered one another.
As a result, we have seen that both locals and newcomers show great interest in each other’s culture. Because migrants bring with them a cultural heritage of thousands of years. They come with their folk songs, tales, lullabies, music, food, language, and history. And the newcomers encounter the local culture and mix over time.
For almost two years many refugees joined our film screenings and other events. The difficulties that newly-arrived artists experience led us to reshape our venue as an open space for these artists. Kırkayak Kültür supported young refugee artists in holding their first exhibition, Waiting, in 2014. Many refugee artists were working as unregistered workers in order to survive economically and had no space to produce and present their artwork. Today, these problems continue. Being a guest and the feeling of being temporary gradually causes frustration. For this reason, these artists are migrating to western countries.
This exhibition was the first time refugee artists came together with the Turkish people. Following this event, photographers, musicians, actors and even artisans asked for our support and used our venues to exhibit their artwork. Such events were also the beginning of a change and the emergence of new ideas for Kırkayak Kültür. Since then, we also provide support for the exhibition, screening and promotion of refugee artists’ works in national and international culture & arts networks.
Between 4-11 December, you will launch the International Zeugma Film Festival for the 10th time. Can you tell us about the purpose of the festival, this year’s theme, and the activities you plan to organise?
With the pandemic, our in-person events stopped. In the summer we held French Film Days and a few other events at Kırkayak Kültür Terrace. We held the Zeugma Film Festival online during the pandemic, but now we will start our Wednesday film screenings again next month.
Culture and arts venues are where people come together even if they speak different languages.
Last year was both the 10th anniversary of Kırkayak Kültür and the 10th anniversary of the Zeugma Film Festival and the first arrival of Syrian refugees. On this occasion, we thought of last year as a year focusing on activities about coexistence. We were going to organise events with the contributions of Syrian artists and international organisations, but the pandemic did not allow this.
Zeugma Film Festival, which will be held for the 10th time this year, will bring together the most qualified and award-winning films of the world and Turkey with cinema lovers in Gaziantep. This year, as in previous years, films under the theme of living together will be screened with Arabic and Turkish subtitles. If we can find sufficient support, we aim to include all fellow citizens of Gaziantep in the film festival.
With the Voice of the Subject: Migrant Women’s Labour During the Pandemic project, you published a series of videos in which migrant women talk about the difficulties they experienced in their professional lives during the pandemic. How did the pandemic and the economic crisis affect the working lives of migrant women?
With this project, we set out with the idea of giving a voice to migrant women who are rendered invisible and increasing their visibility in the public sphere. As we all know, women, especially refugee or migrant women, are often victimised and/or associated with criminal behaviour both in the media and in the popular discourse.
In this video project, we interviewed ten women from different sectors, ethnic groups, and neighbourhoods living in Gaziantep. We realised that uncertainty about the future was one of the common problems of women. We also saw that the difficulties specific to their professions and/or economic conditions make the lives of migrant women difficult. However, both the report and the videos made it clear that contrary to the image of powerless migrant women in the popular discourse, there are women who can cope with difficulties and show resilience, and they are rebuilding their own lives.
Contrary to the image of powerless migrant women in the popular discourse, there are women who can cope with difficulties and show resilience, and they are rebuilding their own lives.
As an organisation working in the field since 2011, we know that migration and its aftermath changes many social rules and/or breaks traditional codes. Many news and research reports indicate that women and children suffered the most and that gender-based violence was used as a weapon of war during this civil war. On the other hand, when we consider the stories of migrant women, we see that the events of the last nine years have made women more visible in daily life. Migrant women have left their homes to work in factories, workshops, fields, domestic work, the service sector, civil society organisations, and many other jobs – albeit unregistered. Contrary to popular belief, countless migrant women who have been involved in the labour market are taking part in production processes every day and becoming empowered.
Which capacity development areas will you focus on with the grant support of our Culture & Arts Fund? How do you expect this support to contribute to your association?
Although our target audience and field of work vary based on our different programmes, we always advocate an approach that focuses on coexistence. In the coming period, we will continue culture & arts activities since access to culture and arts is a fundamental human right. We will continue the Zeugma Film Festival, film screenings, exhibitions, and culture & art workshops, in a way that is accessible to refugees and migrants as well as other disadvantaged groups.
Kırkayak Kültür will continue to bring together the artists and culture & art actors living in the city with exchange programmes and enable the public’s access to their artworks. Our Art Centre will continue to be an open space for artists living in the city or coming from abroad, especially young people.
We will improve the capacity of our Arts Centre and programme with this grant support from the Support Foundation for Civil Society and Turkey Mozaik Foundation. We aim to ensure the sustainability of our Arts Centre. In addition, we will create a two-year road map for the Centre and the programme. Accordingly, we will prepare a culture and arts strategy document and a communication strategy for organisational sustainability, reflecting our past and current knowledge and expertise, and future strategy. At the same time, many cultural & arts-related activities will be organised within the scope of the project.
Established in Gaziantep, Kırkayak Kültür aims to create and increase contact among groups and individuals, in order to contribute to social cohesion and a culture of coexistence. The association, which also aims to increase social development, promote democratic values and create culturally rich living conditions, works with disadvantaged groups, refugees and migrants.