Heidi Trautmann

955: Archiving the arts - 'Conference at the Near East University in memoriam of Hakan Çakmak

My speech on the occasion of the event on November 20, 2017 at the Near East University as guest speaker...

I will get the speech given by Mustafa Hastürk in English and will later make my comments.


My greetings and thanks to the host of this morning’s event, a good morning to the audience.

As a momentum of  gratitude and respect for Hakan Çakmak, a friend to many of us, whose death has surprised us, shaken us and made us aware, that we all have only a borrowed time, I have been invited to contribute to this event and bring my view to the theme ‘Archiving of the Arts’. A theme which Hakan held very close to his heart, a heart which was always open for all the arts for as long as I have known him. A heart which finally failed him. We first met on the occasion of my very first exhibition in Cyprus, in Bellapais, in 2005, when he interviewed me for BRT and so he did on all my exhibitions till the last one in Famagusta in April 2017, when I told him that he would not look well and he should take things easier. Very shortly after this event he left us. 

When 13 years ago I started writing about our local art scene for the English press in North Cyprus, Cyprus Times, Cyprus Today, Cyprus Observer, Zoom Magazine, Pegasus Onboard, and so on and for my own website, I always found Hakan standing next to me, be it at a concert or an art event. We exchanged news and shook hands. He came to my house for TV and photo interviews, also with respect to our Thursday Art Group.  He came for my book launches on ‘Art and Creativity in North Cyprus’ and I have often been told that BRT followed and took over my write-ups on the arts.  He loved his job, he said, he would not accept a job behind the desk, he wanted to be out on the front and witness and record himself the on-goings in the art scene; he needed the close touch, and he did that to his very end; besides recording the running events he finally concentrated on TV interviews with the established artists of Cyprus, just as I have done for many years.


Hakan cannot be with us bodily this morning to listen to what we have to say on the archiving of the arts but his spirit is with us and I know that he is a role model for his colleagues who wish that the work he has done will be continued. I am sure, that he would have agreed with me in what I have to say now on the meaning and importance of archiving the arts.


Some thousand years ago, in the mountains behind this building, a hunter came home one day to the cave he and his family were living in and he took a stone and scratched his day’s experience onto the wall and his wife who did pottery from the clay she had collected from the river beds, took this motive to decorate her pots with. Is this art? Yes, it is. Art is life, is society’s life which has been recorded since man is able to interpret his doings and experiences. This is a first form of creating and archiving art.


Let’s go a step further… For some years now in our present time, we have some art historians and artists – thanks to all gods we have them - whose urgent issue of concern it is to create replicas of the long lost, stolen or sold past of Cyprus, artifacts of the Bronze Ages. This is archiving, one kind of archiving. I followed their activities, took photos, talked to all involved, a further step of archiving. I also talked to one Cypriot man who in his young years and that is many decades ago, who on his walks through the mountains found Bronze Age artifacts and sold them; he was young and he needed money…until he was caught and fined. However, his passion for the old culture haunted him and he decided to do them himself; he bought books, taught himself to work with clay and to fire these copies in the open fire of his ‘Kebab firin’ he used for his restaurant …. And over the years he became successful and obtained the authorization by the government to copy the old pieces and sell them. Wonderful, I admire the passion he followed and his family members took up the passion till today.  This is collecting, creating and archiving of the past. 


Archiving the past, archiving the present…. Never in the past have we had such a big storage space as today with internet, radio, television, films and photography; what did we have before?

Let us go back to another level of the past… In the Old and Middle Ages, the war lords ordered artists to accompany the armies they sent out to conquer new land or defend their borders. Without them we would know nothing, nothing of the events, nothing of the armory and armor bearers, their uniforms and habits that went along with them. So did the explorers of new continents and the paintings and sketches by the artists influenced the fashion, the trade in general and the knowledge about other races back home; it improved science and knowledge in many fields like astronomy, mathematics and medicine: it is all recorded.

From paintings we know the kind of plants that grew then and what architecture was like, fashion, habits and so many other aspects.


However,  within the wide field of the arts we also have literature, theatre and all creative activities that tell us in a different way what is important to know. Since the Old Ages until not so long ago, the news were brought to the courts of kings and knights by migrating artists, musicians, theatre groups and the artifacts and the knowledge were kept in their treasury.


Today, we have all the knowledge stored in a space that can be entered via the computer but is somehow invisible to us, it is sky-space, it is electronic data. The hardware of our gained knowledge, knowledge carried together by experts, artists in all fields, is stored in our National Archive, every written word is stored there, and its archivists get new material on a daily basis from people who have donated their treasures, by will or any other way. 


However, we still have no museum in our part of the island, a museum for the visual arts;  all disciplines of the arts are fighting to have their past not only recorded but to have a home for them, so that the young people of today and tomorrow can learn from it, from the efforts those archivists did and still do, the painters, poets, writers, journalists, photographers, caricaturists, theatre people and so on who in their own way record and comment on signs and occurrences in our modern times. So far, the collections of visual arts are kept in the cellars and corridors of the parliament and interested students, or even tourists, cannot learn about it, about the treasury of art and culture of the island.


When my husband and I first came here with our sailing boat in 1999 I tried to find the local art scene and I found no mention in the local English newspapers, so I made some research myself and on my road I encountered artists and was shown ahead by them. I started to write about the art events because I could not believe that it was not brought to the attention of the foreign residents. Being a traveler for all my life, one of the first institutions to visit for me was an art museum and local galleries which alas was hard to find here.


My efforts were soon rewarded because the foreign community really wanted to know about it and they received my reports and interviews with great curiosity.  With great excitement I met the young Art Association EMAA and its counterpart EKATE which in those years worked closely together, I accompanied their activities, following the opening of the doors between the two parts of the island, such as ART AWARE and OPEN STUDIOS and many other bi-communal activities. A special mention may be the art works including poetry that were installed in the rooms where one round of many peace talks were taking place to admonish and influence the members in a positive but urgent way. It is all recorded. Who would still know about the hurt feelings, the first meetings, the curiosity and many questions about the other?


I still remember the evening when members of EMAA and I met at Nilgün Güney’s Studio Café, in order to discuss the publication of my interviews with artists, my reviews and reports on such art events as mentioned above. EMAA undertook to get the necessary support with the Ministry of Education and Culture and it was its Cultural Comité that granted it. I will never forget it. Mustafa Hastürk was the Director of the Cultural Department then; it was also him who initiated the establishment of the Cultural Magazine DEFNE to record all art events, which still exists today with great success.   I then undertook the hard work to collate the different articles into a book, the English version was edited by Léonie Brittain, the text was translated into Turkish by Nazif Bozatlı, who himself is a great archivist and collector, and the painstaking work of cross editing was done by Nilay Derviş, the cover was based on Nilgün Güney’s suggestions. A valuable cooperation I am still most grateful for.


It was only a logical next step from there to continue the interviews with the other fields of the arts, literature and theatre – plus an amendment on the visual arts section including caricature because quite a crowd of young artists were returning from their studies at universities and conservatoires  -  and to publish them in a second volume which was also supported by the Government, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Culture, Education and Sports, (five so very important matters under one roof)…. A book which was published in 2015 and which I presented to the public together with an exhibition of the artists included, in the National Archive in Girne, the very proper place to do that.


The two volumes took me ten years altogether, ten years of meeting the most important and established people in the art and culture scene. I must add here, that I could not include in these two volumes the very important section of music, I have interviewed many of the outstanding musicians and singers and have published it in newspapers and my website but I have not come any further. They would really deserve it to give a complete picture of the arts and culture of the island.


Ten years of encounters with these creative people in their own environment, with their work and their philosophy, their past and their worries, was a most valuable experience and I am deeply indebted to them to have had their trust to give me their life story because without this knowledge we cannot understand their art. I have encountered passion, despair along their road of learning and arriving. I have learnt the intimate history of one people, of the Cypriots of the Northern part of the island.


Art is made by people for people, people with all their characteristics, their strength and weakness, by people who have learnt to use all their senses, who have learnt to observe and who have learnt to listen, people who give all their heart and passion to a cause, who are open and don’t put their ego first, people who know that the past is the basis for the future, that everything is connected, that we all are just links in the big chain of nature.


This, I know, was understood by Hakan Çakmak who knew so well how to read the arts and the artists. He will not be forgotten as one of the visual archivists of the arts. He would be proud to know that a new team is carrying on the work he has started; we have already welcomed the new team Kadri Esemen - Sevim Kultaş and Özlem Özkaram.


Lately, I have handed over my archive of all catalogues, invitation cards, newspaper copies of my articles and all my E-data to the National Archive and the Cyprus Studies Centre respectively, as I felt the necessity to have the collection conserved for the use of others. With much regret I want to bring to your memory that many artists interviewed by me have already left the garden of life, starting with Ali Atakan, Ali Nazmi Borova, Ayhan Menteş, Rüya Reşat, Ali Nesim, Servet Dedeçay, Fikret Demirağ, Filiz Naldöven, Niki Marangou, and only very recently Harid Fedai. Hakan Çakmak will be in good company. I am deeply grateful to have met them. Archiving the arts meant for me to archive the life stories of the artists because they did not only give us their talent and their work but their passion for their country.

Thank you.

Heidi Trautmann

P.O.Box 761, Girne







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