By Heidi Trautmann
This fine old gentleman was invited by a Turkish
Cypriot activity group to come and talk about his life and his experience. Ipek
Denizli Karagöz, artist and friend, told me about it and their meeting him at
the Teachers House and I also had an invitation to meet him at the French /
Turkish Cypriot Association in their house in Nicosia.
Reading his curriculum vitae he surely had a very
He was born at Seçköy village of Osmangazi district
in Bursa Province in 1921. He started to paint and write at
early age whatever was around him, farm scenes, weddings, children…but refused
to work as his parents had denied him to go to school. At the age of 16 he was
sentenced to six months in Bursa Prison and payment of a fine for growing cannabis, a crime he allegedly did not commit. His sentence was increased to
three years in prison because he was unable to pay the fine. He jobbed in the
prison as a barber to earn money. After serving his first prison term, he was
convicted a second time on the charge of murdering a former fellow inmate and
sent to the prison island İmralı,
where he served until 1947. Then he was transferred back to Bursa Prison. In
1950, Balaban was released in the framework of a general amnesty. Following the 1960 Turkish coup d'état, during the military junta rule in 1961, he was jailed for six months,
this time for the political character of his paintings. That is where
he met Nazim Hikmet, the famous poet who was serving a ten-year sentence for
the political content of his poetry. He was very much influenced by him and
called him "Poet Daddy" (Turkish: Şair Baba).
Nazim Hikmet shared with him his painting tools and taught him many things,
especially in philosophy, sociology, economics, and politics. In
a letter to the novelist Kemal
Tahir, Hikmet wrote about his admiration for Balaban,
calling him "my peasant painter" (Turkish: Köylü ressam). They stayed in contact with each other after they were released.
Following his release from prison in 1950, Balaban had
his first exhibition in Istanbul in 1953 and to date had more than 50
exhibitions with more than 2,000 pieces. He is also the author of 11 books.
İbrahim Balaban (1962). Balaban: babamı ben damda iken
vurdular. Yenilik Basımevi.
Balaban (1968). Şair baba ve
damdakiler. Cem Yayınevi.
İbrahim Balaban (1969). İzdüşümü.
Balaban: yaşamı, sanatı, anılar, yankılar.
Bilim Kitabevi. 1989.
Balaban, Parmakkapı Sanat Galerisi". Parmakkapı
Sanat Galerisi. 1993.
Ibrahim Balaban (2002). Tekbıyık:
İbrahim Balaban (2003). Nâzım
Hikmet'le yedi yıl. Berlin.