No.11 April 2001
During Kurban Bayram we went to visit family in Kayseri and also spent an afternoon exploring a tekke in a place called Hacıbektaş. Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli (b. circa 1248) was a wandering dervish, most probably a Turk from Khorassan (Iran and Afghanistan). According to tradition he left his homeland, was transformed into a dove, and landed in Nevşehir where he founded the tekke we visited. The place is well looked after the founders turbe is there and the whole place is now a museum that falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. I understand that festivals and conferences are held there about once a year and the local man in charge told us they were in the process of developing a website. You can certainly find the same or much better information in a guidebook, so why am I writing about it here? I'm writing about it because the whole experience left me unsettled. It took me a few days but I finally figured out why. It upset me for the same reason it upsets me that our kids are learning about "folklore" in school under the direction of the Milli Eğtim. I don't like it at all and if you catch me at a moment when I'm sitting in a bar drinking rakı and thinking about the current influx of western capitalism in its ever-so seductive forms in conjunction with this you can be sure I'll be ready to talk about it in a very impassioned way for about an hour, non-stop.
Allow me to elaborate. For a variety of complex reasons I am the kind of person who appreciates culture in general. I have always marveled at the plurality of human culture. When I was a hippie I immersed myself in everything connected with it and explored every last aspect. When I lived in Australia, I hobnobbed a while with the consulate and university crowd in Canberra until I fled the stupid pretentiousness of it all and went to live in a rented house on a 600-acre sheep station named "Packwood." While there I learned as much as I could about aboriginal culture and also that of the whites who had settled in the outback. I learned how to chop wood, grow herbs, and make candles. I had a baby at home there on the sheep station with a midwife. I visited the beach where the sea met the forest and touched kangaroos. I bought plums when they were in season and put up jars and jars of plum jam. I learned how to start fires and cook using a woodstove. Once I killed a big, black and highly poisonous snake that had invaded our backyard with a shovel. I brought lunch to the men up at the shed whenever it was shearing season and watched the shearing process. (It's really something. One man will reach out and grapple with a sheep, get it down, straddle it between his legs, and shear it. When he's done he lets it get up, pats it on the butt to set it off running, and then grabs another one. The smell of lanolin still sends me back to those days.) I went out into the night in pouring rain to rescue baby lambs that had been rejected by their mothers and nursed them back to health. I joined the Country Women's Association and learned how to spin wool. Back in California I threw myself into yet another culture, that of academia, and became quite good at it. I learned how to wear fashionable, conservative clothes, to argue a point extremely well, and to write publishable papers that were first presented at scholarly conferences. (Interesting, all that, when you think about it. The same woman who once laid down on the floor, stoned, right in the middle of a Procul Harum concert, and who had spun wool and nursed baby lambs, later learned how to peer out over her reading glasses at an audience of a couple of hundred or so and effectively field questions, even critical ones.) Still later, in France I threw myself into the incredibly refined and aesthetically gorgeous high culture of Paris and learned the names of wines, books, writers, and how to find my way around all the arrondisements that count. I also delved into the lesser mysteries of the French countryside where I discovered the joys of wine-tasting in obscure wineries, cheeses (there are more than 400, each revealing "a pasture of a differente green, under a different sky," according to Italo Calvino), and breads (northern and southern France have their own names for the different breads and each loaf carries a distinctive mark showing what bakery it came from.) Since coming to Turkey I have spent most of my waking moments trying to learn new things and figure it all out. As was the case in France, while I appreciate many aspects of Osmanlı culture -- imperial, high culture, I am equally drawn to Anadolu culture, the indigenous culture of the people, low culture. The politics of high and low culture doesn't interest me very much -- I dislike politics because I find the dynamic of all politics to be very like what small boys do when they compete with each other to see who can pee furthest I am fascinated by culture. Anyway . . .
In the case of Hacıbektas it disturbed me to realize that what had once been a vital, thriving place was now frozen into that mode of existence we term museum. I would have preferred to see it had continued to be the site of a community of persons engaged in daily spiritual struggle, as is the case with other tekkes Ive visited, one of which still occupies its original buildings. And the reason I object to one aspect of the school curriculum being termed folklore is the same. Both are indications that the living history of a people has become flattened, reduced, rendered ineffectual, harmless, meaningless. Take halk music, for example. Regular readers already know how much I love this music. The music comes from a long, long tradition of people giving voice to all the myriad events of daily life. In a description of the lives of the original nomadic Turks Yaşar Kemal tells us hundreds of poets and singers of epic songs wandered the Çukorva plain.That music is something that comes from flesh and blood, from experience, from life, just as did the making of carpets and kilims,and the bombé willow cages that were once made for kekliks. The moment something like halk music or traditional handcrafts is grouped under a rubric like folklore it means that the spontaneity and naturalness have been largely eliminated from them and their inherent power has been effectively neutralized. Much the same thing happened with the hippie movement of the sixties. By the time money-grubbing weekend hippies and Madison Avenue advertising execs got through with the psychedelic movement any consciousness-raising effect it had was finished. In the case of transforming places like the Hacıbektas tekke into a museum and establishing folklore as an academic branch the same thing happens. What emerges is a state of affairs that results in the wholesale objectification of a peoples once-living history, thereby stripping it of the power it once had.
I am not saying that we shouldnt preserve and protect and value structures like that at the Hacıbektaş tekke and all those traditional things that are now classed under the heading of folklore. To the contrary its a good thing to cherish them. What I am saying is that we must beware lest our processes of conservation result in killing them. In the interests of that dubious animal called progress, we have objectified all these things so that they are distanced from the subjects who once made them, the people. The people now view their own history from a distance. Not only are they no longer immersed in that history, they no longer have the sense that they are, even now, makers of history, of culture. This, in my opinion, is too bad
|No.1- April 2000||No.11 April 2001||No. 20 July 2002||No 29 April 2003|
|No.2 June 2000||No.12 May 2001||No. 22 September 2002||NO 30 MAY 2003|
|No.3 July/August 2000||No. 13 June 2001||No. 23 October 2002||NO 31 JUNE 2003|
|No.5 October 2000||No.14 July 2001||No 24 November 2002||NO 32 JULY 2003|
|No.7 December 2000||No.15 August 2001||No 25 DECEMBER 2002||NO 33 August|
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkçe tercume
|NO 16 September 2001||No 26 January 2003||No 34 September|
|No.9 February 2001||No. 17 April 2002||No 27 February 2003||No 35 October|
|No.10 March 2001||NO 19 JUNE 2002||No 28 March 2003||No
36 January 2004
|No 37 February - March 2004||No 38 April 2004|
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