Nazife Bilgin Hazar, a housewife-turned-muralist, was encouraged by her family to pursue an art degree ten years ago, and she hasn’t stopped painting walls since.
“I’m turning 58 in August,” Nazife Bilgin Hazar tells TRT World. “I went to university when I was 49.”
Hazar had been a housewife with a high school diploma until then, but encouraged by her sons Cihan and Can, who are now 33 and 27 respectively, she decided to take the plunge.
“I had seen them study through the eighth grade, so I wouldn’t be neglecting them,” Hazar says.
“I was already making art at home, but my boys told me I should go to school for it too, (and) that I wouldn’t feel alienated [because of the age difference with the other students] since I was like a friend to them, too.”
“My husband Ishak was very supportive too,” Hazar tells TRT World. “He would drop me off to classes and was very appreciative of my efforts to better myself.”
“I hadn’t studied high school topics since I graduated,” Hazar recalls. “So I went to a study centre in 2010 [to prepare for the university exam] and asked the students there if they would mind me sitting in on one class. The subject was geometry, and they said they didn’t mind at all.”
“I was 48 then, and trying to refresh my knowledge,” Hazar continues. “There was a question on the board,” she says. “Well, there was not a peep from the rest of the class, so eventually I raised my hand and asked if I could answer it.”
Nazife Bilgin Hazar successfully passed her university entrance exams, and earned a place at Mersin University Fine Arts Faculty Painting division in 2011.
She graduated with a 98.59 average in 2015, she says not without a hint of pride in her voice.
The idea for painting murals came when she was asked in 2014 to paint one for a temporary animal shelter as a final for a class she was enrolled in. A first-time mural painter, Hazar chose a variation on Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” which depicts a farmer and his daughter, and added a dog.
Hazar also painted murals for social responsibility projects at various locations such as a children’s detention centre – where she was asked to paint trees, flowers, skies, and the sea – the Alzheimer’s Foundation, and an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre (AMATEM).
With her painting professor, she painted Mersin University’s Medical School food hall walls, for which she says “I tried to reduce their stress and painted a sea mural they could enjoy looking at during their breaks”.
Hazar tells TRT World that “there is no age for going to school, not really.” She continues to paint murals around the city of Mersin, where she lives.