By Heidi Trautmann
Tefekkür – Tezekkür – Teşekkür. It means contemplation – consideration - acknowledgement. According to the Sufis’ philosophy the ability of perception is dormant in every person and just needs to be awakened, it is a formula to develop and sharpen one’s senses, and this is the formula Nazif Bozatlı believes in and tries to follow.
In order to develop and learn from your experiences you have to search and do research and each new item discovered is a step towards perfection. “I want to see the whole picture and not only parts of it while the rest is left to assumptions…” Nazif collects documents, photos, texts on subjects he is interested in. His interests are far reaching, from history - I would call it broad band history - fine arts, literature, numismatics, philately, nature and gastronomy and not to forget: personalities; he also collects items that catch his fancy, bookmarks (about 3000), pencils from art museums, precious small drinking glasses, shot glasses, pins, lapel pins, club pins…and… Nazif collects stones, precious and semiprecious stones. “This love for stones I have from my father who had his own quarry. As a child I often went with him into the mountains with a rucksack and tools to search for special stones. I was very close to my father, he taught me the basics of wisdom.”
While we talk about these passions of his - I have to use the plural term because there are so many passions – we sit comfortably in his studio surrounded by thousands of books reaching up to the ceiling, precious and rare books which he has found on his travels throughout the years, on occasions of different jobs that took him around Europe, in the most incredible places….and he knows exactly where to find certain books on his shelves, there is an immaculate order , the professional order of an archivar….my respects….yes, and while we sit and talk, he shows me his treasure boxes containing beautiful opals and moon stones and so many other species all sorted in its own compartment.
Nazif Bozatlı was born in Canakkale in 1948; his father was a pharmacist and served in the army as a mayor at the military hospitals. When he retired the family moved to Kütahya, named after the god Kotys, a place famous for its old ceramic culture and design, with its history going back to Greeks and Romans.
“I had two grandfathers who taught me many things that had a lifelong influence on me. The one, Ali Haydar, who fought in the Turkish Independence War, often took me to the Bazaar with him where he introduced me among others to numismatics and taught me to respect the coins as witnesses of the past. He and my mother were from Kütahya. The paternal grandfather, Şerif Bey, son of Nazif Agha who had a farm which became the village of Bozçatlı - so you know where my name comes from - and he was teaching me to read from early age on; I was able to read at the age of five years. He kept telling me: ‘Boy’, he said, ‘as long as you can read, you will never be hungry’; how right he was, because when you feed and satisfy your brain, you will not feel any pain.”
Nazif’s mother was a teacher, so he was in the best of hands. His love for books, a passion I share, the respect he shows for them, the care he handles them with when he hands me the books of poets and writers he loves most:
Yunus Emre (Knowledge true is found in learning/True knowledge is to know yourself/And if that self you have not learned/Your reading has been all for naught. Translation by Süha Faiz); Nazım Hikmet (I had a pencil that year I was put in jail/It was exhausted in one week/By writing and writing/If you ask the pencil:/ “It was a whole life”;/If you ask me:/ “Who cares, it was a week only”.Translation by Nazif Bozatlı);
Orhan Veli Kanık (I buy old things/To make them into stars/If music be the food of life/I adore music/I write poems/I swap them with old things/I swap old things with pieces of music/I just wish I were a fish in a bottle of booze -rakı- Translation by Talat Sait Halman);
Baudelaire (Les Fleurs du Mal);
Omar Khayyam (Dreaming when Dawn’s Left Hand was in the Sky/I heard a voice within the Tavern cry/”Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup/Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry”translated by Edward Fitzgerald), Amin Malouf (Samarkand).
“In my young years I loved reading the French and Russian classics and continued to appreciate the modern literature ex these countries, a good range of history books to do research with, but for the last years I read nothing but reference books to subjects I had to work on, for articles I had to write, for translations I had to do, mostly with respect to art, antique art, specialized literature, with reference to my collections and my hobbies such as cooking…..you must not know everything but you must know where to look for it…” Also one of my principles, it makes me smile….but tell me, I ask Nazif, with all the interests you have, is there a main line you follow?
“Not really a main line, rather a broad band, whatever awakens my curiosity or whatever job picks me, I will follow with full intensity.
When I was a boy I worked in my father’s pharmacy during the school holidays, where I helped preparing the medicine in a mortar for the clients. My father was a renowned pharmacist educated by Jewish professors from Germany and France who had to flee from nationalism practiced there in the big war. In later years the chemical company BASF from Germany settled in our town for the expansion of the chemical plant there, and with them came about 300 German families, who eventually became our clients at the pharmacy. So, it was quite natural that I firstly learnt about medicine, herbs and their terms in Latin and Greek, and at the same time some colloquial German and French, just like that, by speaking to people and thus my interest developed for their literature and philosophy of life.” That means adapting to situations that life offers, I ask laughingly.
“Oh yes, I always had to do that and I always did, throughout all my life. That makes life interesting.”
I try to imagine how life was then in Turkey, a country developing slowly but steadily, open for connections to the West, a wide country with enormous possibilities and energies, human energies, fresh and unspoilt.
Nazif went to Ankara to study journalism, broadcasting and public relations in the Faculty of Political Sciences graduating in 1972; he added one more year in London for post graduate studies in public relations. The main tracks were thus laid for his future, his intellectual interests never came short in whatever he did, all his various jobs provided him with an occasion to deepen his knowledge and to discover new fields of interest, whether he worked as a business manager for handicraft and souvenir export, or in the wood export business, or part time as a lecturer for Public Relations at the University in Izmir. All that happened between 1972 – 1979.
“In the meantime I had got married to Necla my wife; we had met at the University, where she studied law. She was from Cyprus, so eventually we decided to move there and since it had aroused my curiosity, we settled there in 1979. I became the Managing Director of the then leading Akgünler Travel Agency, they had no ferries yet in those years, and later I was asked to manage the newly established Club Acapulco Holiday Village. Those were the days, my friend…. the first steps of Northern Cyprus into the tourism business.”
Travel business involved a lot of new subjects in Nazif’s agenda that was history, ancient and realistic history of Cyprus….. “and it was then that I started my archives on Cyprus matters, I followed up whatever promised some mystery, and we still have a lot of mysteries hidden in the soil of Cyprus, for example the lost gospel of Saint Barnabas, due to which so many people had lost their lives under mysterious circumstances, or the treasures that still lay buried in some places due to the many occupations and wars.”
Nazif was the one to find the inscription at the foot of the Obelisk in Nicosia which says: ‘Fides incorrupta non pulchritudo non hujus ubertas specietur incolar’ with the date of 1550, which he translated into English: ‘The people of this country are not after wealth and beauty but after pure faith’.
There are so many other mysterious things he was after and all went into his archive, an archive he shares with his friends, with authors and artists, with journalists and the National Archive in Kyrenia, with universities….since 2006 he is a board member of the Cyprus Research Centre at the Eastern Mediterranean University.
In 1986 the family went to Izmir again for altogether 16 years – in the meantime two sons have been born – where Nazif went into a more gratifying tourism adventure by establishing and managing tourist agencies, cooperating with European tour operators and working on a large level to build up connections; and …en passant…he planned and realized the today biggest recycling company ‘Besaplast’.
“It was a very intensive time for me, and as from 1991 something else, a very important side effect of my studies which I had so far treated as a hobby, became a profession for me, the status of an expert in antiquities of Turkish and Islam artifacts and art – not textiles – by having been involved with journalistic activities as editor-in-chief for one of the most comprehensive magazines in Turkey Antik ve Dekor, and having published articles in other journals such as Türkiye’de Sanat, Sanat Cevresi, Anons, Tarih ve Toplum.
“I was given the authority to testify by my signature of expertise in countries such as Turkey, England, France and USA in front of courts, police, insurances, auction organisations, for collectors of Turkish and Islamic Art and orientalist paintings, also on behalf of Sotheby’s. Today, I am still called to give my expertise in matters of doubt.”
In 2002 Nazif Bozatlı retired from his many jobs in Turkey and moved back to Cyprus with his family and to many more demanding and interesting jobs: For example, he became the General Manager of KITSAB, the Cyprus Turkish Tourism and Travel Agents Association from 2004-2006, the same association for which he is today preparing its tourism magazine of the same name.
There is a joke going for people who work too much: A man calls a taxi and when the driver asks him where he wants to go, he answers: I don’t mind, I am needed everywhere….that is very applicable to Nazif, he likes to help, and he takes on several jobs at the same time. In the past ten years he published several magazines: the flight magazines On Air North Cyprus and later Cyprus Sky, an estate magazine Art of Living. He became the coordinator for Deniz Temiz, an association for marine environment protection; for two years he worked for Zoom Magazines as editor and editor-in-chief respectively, and he did some important translations where his expert knowledge came in handy: From Turkish to English: Hilye-i Sherife in Calligraphic Art, Peculiarities of Prophet Mohammed by Hüseyin Gündüz and Faruk Taskale and The Adventure of Currency in Anatolia by the editor Turgay Türker; and from English to Turkish: Art and Creativity in North Cyprus by Heidi Trautmann and the first book by a Greek Cypriot to be translated into Turkish: Niki Marangou’s book From Famagusta to Vienna.
Where will he go from here, I ask him. Going on keeping his ear to the ground and his topics on the pulse of our times?
“By the force of habit I feel compelled to do so, to keep assured an overall view of things while the world keeps turning, for the sake of this country where I found so many friends and for my own sake and my never tiring curiosity.”