The opening of the Yeditepe Biennial, which was organized under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey and with the cooperation of the Fatih Municipality and the Classical Turkish Arts Foundation, has been made with the honoring of the President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Historical Peninsula.
The wife of the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Mrs. Emine Erdoğan, the Minister of Culture and Tourism Numan Kurtulmuş, the Minister of Energy and Natural Sources Berat Albayrak, the Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin, the Metropolitan Mayor Mevlüt Uysal, the Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir, the Vice President of the Classical Turkish Arts Foundation Muhammed Emin Demirkan, parliamentarians, artists, art lovers and many visitors attended the program that started with the Koran recitation of Hafiz Ramazan Demirkan.
After the speeches, the Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir presented the calligraphy painting of Calligraphist Ali Toy having the writing on it “Isn’t Allah Sufficient For His Servant” to the President Erdoğan. The President Erdoğan made the opening of the biennial by ribbon cutting.
Erdoğan, giving a speech in the “Yeditepe Biennial” that is organized in the Haghia Sophia Museum under the auspices of the Presidency, and with the cooperation of the Fatih Municipality and the Classical Turkish Arts Museum and in the global communication cooperation of the Anatolian News Agency, mentioned that Turkey was a country that had always been in the intersection of civilizations, and continued his speech as follows:
“How happy we are… In fact, we reached this point by continuously giving and melting. Let’s go back centuries ago, we came here from 18 millions square meters away. I mean, we ended up 780 thousand square meters. Not long ago, we had 5 million square meters area at the beginning of the 19th Century. In such a short period of time, we decreased to 780 thousand square meters. Nobody calls for the account of it. Nobody says, “How we have arrived at this point?” From now on, it is very sensitive for us. We have to be very careful.”
Reminding that there are many places all across Turkey that had been the cradles of many civilizations from Hatay to Kayseri, from Ürgüp to Hasankeyf and from Ephesus to Hattusa, Erdoğan said: “You cannot find counterpart of artworks in Topkapı anywhere else in the world and in any museum in terms of capacity and variety. However, as a nation, we don’t appreciate the value of the treasure we have here, as it is in many other fields. ‘Those fish are in the sea, but they don’t know the sea.’ We are in such a situation. We cannot introduce these beauties either to us or foreigners. We are almost like a bankrupt merchant. Of course, we are aware of the fact that the fundamental problem here is the mentality, which dominated our country once. Turkey had been the captive of an unproductive and narrow point of view that was based on a certain period and certain pattern, when talked about art, culture and history. Unfortunately this mentality, which was more Byzantian than the Byzantine and more Western than the West, but either way disputed with the values of our people, could not appreciate the value of the inheritance that our ancestors left to us. Some of the mosques, just like here, were converted into a museum, and some of them into a storehouse, and unfortunately some of them into a barn.”
– CHP of the period considered our centuries-old cultural heritage as a sample of retrogression in their own words.
Erdoğan, mentioning that more than 300 masjids were destroyed only in Suriçi during the single-party period, indicated that:
“When I say Suriçi, I mean Fatih, the center. Now, we are in the endeavor to revive and build them. Most of the time, these masjids and mosques are demolished due to negligence, and hundreds of precious artworks in them were sacked. CHP of the period considered our centuries-old cultural heritage as a sample of retrogression in their own words. And unfortunately, they also mentioned in person that the inheritance of our ancestors must have been subjected to an absolute elimination. Unfortunately, the Islamic artworks got their share from this defective understanding. The Islamic arts like calligraphy, marbling, and ornamentation were disregarded in those days when even Koran education could be made secretly. Our traditional arts were tried to be replaced by other art branches reflecting a certain ideology and world perspective. The concepts of art and artist were evaluated from an extremely narrow perspective, and considered to consist of only contemporary arts. Apart from that, unfortunately they presumed many branches of arts as non-existent, which belong to these lands and peculiar to us, our people, by not valuing them. Even worse, our artists, who try to do something in their own courses, producing artworks and adding value to the society, were deferred, alienated and doomed to nothingness.”
They Don’t Change Their Bad Habits
The President Erdoğan emphasized that they witness that the top-down, oppressive, jacobean understanding still continues in some art environments, and used the following expressions: “The sharpest attacks to our artists, who don’t share their ideologies and buckle under their dictate, come from them. We know how our artists, who didn’t give support to the Gezi events, were pointed as a target by such people. We all know very well that our artists were threatened, since they didn’t walk arm in arm with these marauders, and didn’t give credit to vandalism and street terror. Our ancestors say ‘Old habits die hard’. They don’t change their bad habits; they never come to their senses, even though the slaps they got in their faces.
Erdoğan, indicating that what happened in Gezi was made to the artists, who recently went to the region for giving support to Olive Branch Operation, by saying that “What are you doing there?”, said:
“They did this to our artists feeling honored with their own soldiers. They exhibited the same depravation and same banditry towards our artists as how they lynched our artists at that time. They couldn’t tolerate our artists cheering up our soldiers, who risk their lives for our country. They vacated their grudge, hatred and hostility, which they accumulated for days, around from the newspaper articles, television screens and social media accounts. They didn’t leave any insult, which are not voiced toward those artists, only because they took a local and national stance. Believe me, they are not any different than lumpen neighborhood bullies, rather, they are just like them. These are modern bedouins in terms of mentality. Neither an artist nor an artwork is worthy for them, regardless of how great they are, unless they are from their own small tribes. They protect their tribesmen to the end regardless of which crime they commit and how worthless their works are. You are acceptable in their eyes, as long as you don’t betray the interest group, even if you betray your country. As a matter of fact, the reason why they still treat the so-called artists with great respect, who give support to the separatist terrorist organization and helping the people having a grudge to Turkey and discrediting our country all the time, is that.”
The President Erdoğan emphasized that they broke the taboos and changed the paradigm in Turkey as they did in many other fields in the last 15 years.
Having said that they have protected the greatest amount of physical places in their government period, Erdoğan said: “They demolished, we built. They are still trying to demolish, but we try to build. Remember their demonstrations without seeing anything. When we were building a center like the Harbiye Congress Center in Istanbul, they came over us, even though we said we would make a bigger and more modern one, and they kept silent after we did it. As you know, now we have a huge underground congress center, exhibition center for 3 thousand people.”
Because, A Nation Without Art Means That Their Life Source Is Destroyed
After emphasizing that they built the Atatürk Cultural Center as the number one opera house of Turkey, Erdoğan continued as follows:
“You know that those in the Gezi demonstrations shouted a lot. You can shout as much as you want, go mad, burst, we demolished it and if Allah lets, we will be building an amazing opera house, which will be one of the enumerated multipurpose opera houses of the world, in a short period of time. The project is already finished. The previous project designer made it, finished and every process regarding the project, including the tender, was completed. If Allah lets us, we will rapidly deliver it to our people. This place is very important in Turkey and, will be a cultural and art exhibition center for the foreigners abroad, and also such a center that we can use for multiple purposes.
We put an end to the tyranny of a class, which had dominated the cultural and art field for decades and considered here almost like their backyard. We did the same thing in Ankara. Try to produce one artwork throughout the history of the Republic, or one physical place, you couldn’t do it. That is to say, they waited for us. We came, and have been doing these works, and will continue to do so. We will make them in our 81 provinces as large and small. Why? Because, a nation without art means that their life source is destroyed.”
Emphasizing that they will be strong with art and culture, Erdoğan used the following expressions: “Regardless of how strong you are in the economy, you are not existent in the world if you don’t make your presence in art and culture. We have completely changed the old order where only certain art branches were protected and only certain artists were supported. We have been in effort for supporting the beauty, quality and success without making discrimination among our arts and artists. Therefore, we have paved the way for our traditional arts. We have never neglected other art branches. Even though the ones losing their privileges mercilessly criticize us, we haven’t fallen into the errors of our predecessors.”
Erdoğan said that they are in the endeavor to embrace every artwork that will add value to the cultural and art life of Turkey and will increase the diversity in this field, and that they will proceed on their way just like this.
Erdoğan, mentioning that they will not discriminate the values of this country according to their ideologies, political identity or world perspective like others, but will continue to embrace the art world with all of its colors, varieties and richness, completed his words as follows:“ Everybody, who provides contribution, adds value, and produces quality works to the culture and art life of this country, is most welcome. I wish that the Yeditepe Biennial, which we make the opening of, would lead to beneficial results. I congratulate those who contributed in the organization of the biennial, and I thank all of our artists for their contributions. Since we made this distinguished art activity available for all Istanbul residents in the best way, I believe they will take advantage of this event. May Allah Be Your Helper and Be With You, and al-fatehah for the soul of our ancestors handing down this artwork to us, particularly to the soul of Mehmet the Conqueror, the conqueror of our Istanbul…”.
The citizens and tourists made demonstrations of affection to the President Erdoğan while he was departing from the Haghia Sophia. And the presidential guards handed out toys to children.
After the program in the Haghia Sophia, the President Erdoğan had lunch in the “Historical Grilled Meatball Restaurant”. His wife Mrs. Emine Erdoğan, the Minister of Energy and Natural Sources Berat Albayrak, the Minister of Culture and Tourism Numan Kurtulmuş, the Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin, the Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Mevlüt Uysal, the AK Party Provincial Chairman Bayram Şenocak, and the Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir also accompanied him.