Heidi Trautmann

401 - Forgotten Ballads – are they forgotten? - Ismail Işilsoy's Opening of his 7th Exhibition

By Heidi Trautmann


At the southwestern backdoor of North Cyprus I swam in the bay of Yesılırmak on last Sunday and I thought, that just around the corner there is the other part of Cyprus, the Greek part, until recently locked, now open for visits. The place is peaceful; I have the impression of a last century sea resort, old fashioned, with time standing still.  The fields along the valley are tilled, waiting for the next season, mostly strawberries and vegetables.

Ismail Işilsoy lives and works here, and once in a while he invites his friends and fans to show his new work, faces of Cyprus, made from old wooden window and door leftovers he finds everywhere.

When forming the faces he thinks of poems and ballads, disappeared in the fog of the past.

On September 2, he welcomed a big crowd of art lovers, neighbours and friends from all around the island, Turkish speaking and Greek speaking friends, some Belgians and Germans among them,  and they brought their own songs and verses. A full moon was hanging over the valley, shining on the audience in the chairs Ismail has lined up in his beautiful garden.  His adolescent son on the guitar and his friend Muharrem Cemoğlu on the cello played background music on the stage while visitors admired the new faces, smaller this time, and read the verses full of wisdom and wit. Faces and poetry, ballads, faces that speak of the past, a common past. The question is: will there be a common future? Peace in the future and co-existence? A peace fest, and Ismail, the sculptor, actor and poet, reminds us not to forget the past and its ballads.

The stage is free for the people from the audience to stand up and recite verses, spoonerisms, pieces of wisdom, proverbs which go back to the beginning of times, very similar in all languages, quintessence of life experiences. Young people step up and then an old lady from Morphou/Güzelyurt, sits in front of the mike and wisecracks along in the true sense of the word and makes everybody laugh out loud. We feel at home.

Songs were sung, by Turkish and Greek girls, songs that everybody knew and they all joined in. All Ismail friends from both sides of the border, came together in his garden to remember, facing the old wooden faces of Cyprus.

Things that were told when there was no electricity and life was simple, when there was no television but the neighbours to sit and chat with. Nobody was lonely in those days and the guests of Ismail have proven that the old sayings, songs, jokes are not forgotten, just sleeping.


His exhibition is still open until September 9. Contact him via email i.isilsoy@hotmail.com.

His studio and house is right at the beginning of the village road on the right hand side.


Published in Cyprus Observer September 8

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