By Heidi Trautmann …
Arabahmet Quarter with more or less still complete rows of typical Ottoman houses with wooden balconies in small streets, through which I have often walked, though many are abandoned for decades.
There is the scent of times long past, and a kind of melancholic beauty envelops the visitor. Each building has stories to tell and luckily some very few of these treasures have been taken over by artists or have been changed into cultural places. Others have been given to tenants who cannot afford to maintain their place or even repair it.
SOL Atelier and the American University of Cyprus have now organized an exhibition before it will, most probably and hopefully, be renovated. But let the organisers speak for themselves about this outstanding project:
This exhibition is a collaboration of various artists from Cyprus, France, Persia and the United Kingdom. These artists have created their works of art through their own personal interpretation and understanding of this building. They have focused on their individual feelings and impressions and they created their works of art in their own time and place.
This exhibition includes artistic installations, paintings, photographs, a performance and a cinematic installation. Participating artists are: Toya Akpınar, Selis Tutkum Altınok, Mathieu Devavry, Arianna Economou, Sümer Erek, Sinem Ertaner, Hayal Gezer, Nilgün Güney, Nurtane Karagil, Osman Keten, Lee Maelzer, Omid Kalantar Motamedi, Şenol Özdevrim, Ayşe Rabo and Sibel Kemal Uzun.
As a reminder of the history and the past of the building and the general area, there is archival research by researcher-scholar Alexander-Michael Hadjilyra about the history of this building, the Soultanian family who built this house and their family (including a family tree and several photographs), the Armenian presence in the neighbourhood and a map with information on the various places of interest in the Karaman Zade and Arab Ahmed Pasha quarters.
Additionally, there are some photographs of the last resident of this house and also the basement used as a shoe-making workshop, provided by his son, Serhan Şensoy.
The exhibition will be open from Thursday, 26 July 2018, until Tuesday, 31 July 2018, between 18:00-21:00 and it is organised by SOL Atelier / Exhibition Hall and the American University of Cyprus.
On the evening of the opening on July 26, the lanes served as reception spaces for the many, obviously highly interested guests, quite a number had come from the South as well. I could see and hear them discuss from the windows above when we entered, in groups of ten – for static reasons I believe. The exhibition was taking place in two buildings, in No. 39 Hafiz Hasan Efendi Sokak and in No. 1 Sht Salahi Sevket Sokak, just around the corner.
We were sent up a narrow steep wooden ‘chicken ladder’ to the first floor, as they were the customs in the old days. Here we were surprised to meet the ghosts of former inhabitants in the rooms, a lady in white going to her boudoir, deep in thought, a young girl reading and sleeping in her bed, a young man meditating, some pieces of furniture and mattresses arranged as if the house was still populated, performances some of the artists had arranged. I am sure we all had the feeling of having woken up the old family members who had fallen asleep for decades, just like in ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
Installations…. Rooms became installations, filled with some articles of daily life next to a painting, or photos, books, a poem, drawings….. the rooms became the frame to the objects and artworks the artists had created, even soap bubbles came out of one room, obviously the former room of a youngster.
Around the street corner, in No. 1 Sht Salahi Sevket Sokak, we found the former atelier of a shoemaker in the basement below street level, where the old wooden shoe forms were transformed into birds, they have been given wings around a painting, and in that same building, one room, a space totally in white, with time molten over objects. Ashes of the past, so very still, but telling its touching stories, stories around the bric à brac on a chest.
And here, a servant, slowly with her head bent, a figure of a different time level served us with snacks on a tray she had brought out from the old kitchen of the noble mansion. Crockery, broken cups, a big melon cut open, some bread crusts and stuffed zucchini flowers. I took one and ate it, it was delicious, as if it were made today.
And as we left the building, a big full moon rose over the narrow lanes, it has seen it all, long ago.