Turkish Community Art is Not Looking For Perfection

The Yunus Emre Institute and the Republic of Turkey London Consulate General have brought together Turkish artists residing in the UK. The exhibition, held online because of the pandemic, can be viewed until mid-March.

The third Turkish Community Art Exhibition opened to the public on February 15, 2021 with an online opening ceremony. It is organised by the Republic of Turkey London Consulate General and London Yunus Emre Institute. The virtual exhibition displays 88 artworks by 51 artists.

The Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) “was established as a foundation in 2007 with a specific aim to promote the history, culture and language of Turkey.  It is named after the famous 14th century poet Yunus Emre.”

TRT World spoke with one of the members of the jury, Zeynep Iqbal, who is a 32 year old architect also trained in traditional arts and crafts with a master’s degree at Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

Over an email, Iqbal told TRT World that her work in general in the UK is “under a design studio I co-founded to develop communities through better artistic and architectural design. My jury role at the exhibition was to focus on and evaluate the traditional art entries and the techniques of the submissions.”

Iqbal commented that the members of the jury in the selection process “were not looking for perfection but ensuring a certain level of quality for the exhibition.”

Talking about diaspora art, Iqbal said “All artworks made by a person of Turkish origin living in the UK or by a non-Turkish artist living in the UK whose work is inspired by Turkish art were welcome. Diaspora art is more exciting in many ways, since people who live outside of Turkey are interpreting their homeland and culture through a lens. This lens can be at times seen through nostalgia, or imagery of serene landscapes or even faith.”

Iqbal continued to say that’s why she was interested in being on the jury panel.

A sense of community

The motto of the exhibition is “Come let’s get together with art”. At the opening ceremony, Yunus Emre Institute President Seref Ates, Ambassador of Turkey to the UK Umit Yalcin, Turkish Consul General Bekir Utku Atahan, London Yunus Emre Institute Director Mehmet Karakus and members of the jury Zeynep Iqbal, Nilay Islek and Cevdet Akman spoke.

London Yunus Emre Institute Director Mehmet Karakus summarised in his opening speech that the main reason for this exhibition was “to bring together [Turkish] artists who live in the UK and are unaware of each other, to help artists who don’t have the ability or courage to exhibit their work and to encourage them, to strengthen the communication and collaboration between our artists and to expose them to a larger group of art lovers.”

Yunus Emre Institute President Seref Ates said the mission of the Yunus Emre Institute is to forge ties between people in Turkey and other countries and that this is possible through culture and art activities. Ates emphasised the importance of fostering art and in this context the continuation of the exhibition.

Ambassador of Turkey to the UK Umit Yalcin said that the exhibition is proof that how the Turkish community in the UK is hopeful and resilient and how much they value art and culture despite difficult circumstances.

Turkish Consul General Bekir Utku Atahan verbalised how pleased he was with the turnout and this exhibition, in addition to bringing Turkish artists’ work together, is significant because it brings their work to art audiences in the United Kingdom.

Iqbal wrote in an email that “since the first exhibition, the number of artworks submitted have increased and [there are] also more artworks with different materials and techniques. I would like this exhibition to inspire more young artists, craftsmen and more diverse arts to be included. Being in the field of traditional arts and architecture, I have learnt that we have many talented people in our communities. I hope this initiative continues and encourages more people to showcase their work. It is by looking at the world from different people’s eyes that enriches us.”

 The exhibition aims to bring artists from the Turkish community in the UK together and make their artworks accessible to wider audiences. It can be viewed at the Yunus Emre Institute’s website until March 15, 2021.

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