Alashia or Alasia….when you spell it out loud….there is some mystic tone to it. Alashia, an old name of Cyprus or at least a part of it, the name of an old kingdom in the times of the bronze ages, it has the ring of nobility in it. Many heroic people have once come to the island by sailing boats and have brought with them the knowledge of art and they have brought with them artists who found the material in the soil of the new home, clay to build up statues, containers and tools to worship their gods and to worship their kings: Art was used to show any probable enemy approaching their homestead, their fortress, the power that lived within, power to fight, but also power of intelligence and spirit. Riches and beauty against war and negligence. Royal people were given an army of companions to protect them on their road to eternity, and they buried them in sites holy to them….. and that is where they eventually were discovered, unburied and taken away by people who had no right to do so. However, it has happened in most countries over the world, perhaps they thought…… if we take their culture, we take their identity? It is not about wealth, it is in fact about our national identity, the arts have always been and still are the proof of our identity.
With this in mind, Rauf Ersenal, head of the Vakiflar Foundation’s board of directors, had done research for many years and it was in cooperation with ceramic artist Ayhatun Ateşin that the 1st International Terracotta Symposium was carried through – I have reported on my website on the work done by over 40 ceramic artists to recreate the lost figurines of Ayia Irini/Akdeniz. It was a very moving event and it found its climax in the celebration and exhibition at the old Ayia Irini church.
In continuation of this event followed the 2nd Workshop alongside the exhibition ‘Alashia Reborn’. Ayhatun Atesin, the curator of both events, has used the name and the philosophy that goes with it, on other occasions of showing with pride the cultural heritage, paintings, installations and terracotta sculptures, at the Izmir Art Biennale, in Famagusta and at the Bedesten.
Again ceramic artists came together and worked in the beautiful court yard of the Bedesten (Azizi Baha Örken, Fahimeh Haydari, Aykut Hızlıok, Şenol Özdevrim, Serdar Aslan, Nurhayat Yenice, Kadriye Kantık, Eda Taşlı, Onur Fındık, Bilal Deniz, Hasan Saydam, Ali Akar Çakmakçı, Sinem Saydam, Aydan Birdevrim, Hikmet Uluçam, Vedia Okutan, Tolga Yurtözveri, Ayça Akarcan, Cevdet Alparslan, Hayal Dimililer, Nergül Gezer Dündar).
They created replicas of Cypriot…. or by the old name…. Alashian statues and parts of figurines, that are today to be found in museums in Paris, London and New York. The artists, some of them had already participated in the first symposium, were able to create the replicas on the basis of photos, some of them over life size, and the finished bodies were placed in the big hall inside and are now given time to dry. Masters and master students of their guild were highly concentrated in trying to slip into the role of their ancient colleagues and somehow I felt that there was a connection….very mystic indeed.
Unfortunately I missed the many interesting lectures that were given during the duration of exhibition, lectures and films that were enlightening the guests on the deeper details of historical background. The historian academicians were Dr. Bülent Kıızılduman, Prof. Sevim Çizer, Prof. Levent Zoroğlu, Nezih Başgelen, Dr. Luca Zavagno, Dr. Rıza Tunvcel and Şenay Buluğ; the documentary film was by Mustafa Ersenal.
The old culture re-entering bodily today’s era, to show something to be proud of….and it is going to continue: There will be more workshops and symposia in the coming year to uncover and make visible the rich heritage of Cyprus. They will be held at important sites in both parts of the island.
The ancient spirits keep returning, nothing can keep them away anymore and perhaps it is this spirit that we all need to find our way in the future.
PS: There are some photos that I have been using from Rauf Ersenal and Ayhatun Atesin's facebook sites.