Nine-month Season Introduces Turkey’s Culture To France(the Events And Timings Can Be Found At

Lizbon Büyükelçiliği 26.10.2009

Adding to the balmy days of summer was the Season of Turkey in France, a series of hundreds of cultural events aimed at promoting Turkish culture in France, which got under way July 1 with spectacular shows at Paris' Trocadéro Square.

More than 400 events reflecting various aspects of Turkish culture are not only being organized in Paris but also in such cities as Lille, Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux throughout nine months, offering French citizens a chance to get to know Turks better through examples of contemporary art, architecture, photography, theater, dance, music and cinema.

“The interest of the people and of French media for all events is immense,” says Görgün Taner, the general director of the İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Art (İKSV) and high commissioner of the Turkish organizers of the Season of Turkey in France. “A news conference on June 30 at the Ministry of Culture and Communication of France attracted more attention than the previous seasons [featuring other countries]. A total of 15,000 people danced to Turkish rhythms during the opening show by Anadolu Ateşi [Fire of Anatolia] and Mercan Dede on July 4 at Trocadéro Square,” Taner added.

In this respect, the Season of Turkey seems to be a good opportunity for introducing Turkish culture in Europe and establishing cultural bridges between the two societies, of course targeted at altering the perception of Turkey in France and the overcoming of prejudices. “An exhibition by İnci Eviner, another named ‘Istanbul Traversée' within the Lille3000 festival in March and a photography exhibition titled ‘The Galata Bridge' at the Orangerie in July, under the curatorship of Engin Özendes, received a huge number of visitors,” indicates Taner. “Additionally, concerts by the alternative Turkish bands Gevende and Baba Zula as part of July's ‘Sous la Plage' festival in Paris, Turkish musicians taking part in July 14, Bastille Day, celebrations in Nantes and the interest towards concerts and workshops organized since the opening of the Turkish Café at Jardin des Tuileries in July [attracted a great deal of interest].” Taner is quite sure about the reason behind this huge interest: “All this can be seen as proof of how the French are willing to discover Turkey.”

It is important to note that the Season of Turkey and the reaction it receives are not confined to Paris. “The best example for this is that France celebrated its Republic Day with [artists from] Turkey. In an event in which 20,000 people participated, a fireworks display accompanied by the music of DJ Yakuza and Rasim Bıyıklı hit the headlines of all local newspapers.”

The deal to hold the Season of Turkey in France was signed during the term of office of President Jacques Chirac, and it was confirmed during the term of Nicolas Sarkozy. “The source of inspiration was the success of the French Spring series of cultural events organized in 2006 in Turkey on the occasion of a renewal of relations between the two countries,” says Taner. “Thus, the season was implemented after it was reaffirmed by the culture and foreign ministries of both countries as well as the French presidency.”

No doubt, there's an expectation of reinforcing cultural relations between the two countries which, in fact, have been in contact for centuries, since the Ottoman period. “We can summarize the expectations of the two countries as getting to know each other better, developing and maintaining cooperation in cultural, social and economic grounds,” confirms Taner. “We believe the season is going to influence the stereotypical ideas about Turkey in a positive way, that the French will get to know modern-day Turkey better and that this interest towards Turkey will continue after the season.”

One of the most important events of the Season of Turkey in France is the bestowing of the Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris (the Grand Medal of the City of Paris) on famous Turkish personalities: legendary photographer Ara Güler, art house filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk. The Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris is the highest honor given by the Paris Municipality, and it is given to artists and significant persons who are evaluated as honorary citizens of Paris. Previous world-renowned recipients of the medal include Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, fashion designer Gianni Versace, actors Maggie Cheung and Jackie Chan and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling. “France showed how much it values Ara Güler by the Légion d'honneur in 2002 … and this medal has been given just at the right time: the arrival of the grand master to Paris for his exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. The season itself increases the symbolic meaning of the award,” Taner says.

Such awards also contribute to the public's awareness of the importance of such artists. “Ara Güler is a photographer and a journalist who defines himself as a ‘visual historian of the time.' And such events invite French and Turkish art lovers to regard [each others' artists] with an unprejudiced point of view,” Taner notes.

Literature is one of the mainstream disciplines in the season,” indicates Taner. Turkey was chosen as the guest of honor for prestigious literature events in Bécherel, which has a reputation as ‘the village of the books,' and Saint Nazaire. Many Turkish authors, including Elif Şafak, Aslı Erdoğan, Esmahan Aykol, Demir Özlü and Zafer Şenocak, were guests at these events. Other authors, including Metin Kaçan, Sema Kaygusuz, Füruzan, Lale Müldür, Nedim Gürsel, Enis Batur and Tahsin Yücel, are invited to events in Paris, Marseille and Strasbourg. On October 5, there was a special night in honor of Orhan Pamuk at the Odéon Theater. Nobel laureate Pamuk wasawarded the Médaille de Vermeil. And on Nov. 28 there will be another night in honor of Yaşar Kemal at the National Library of France. All these show that Turkish literature is appreciated in France.”

Turkey is the subject of around 400 events held in France during the nine-month Season of Turkey in France, running through March 31, 2010. Not just the capital but also other cities host events as part of the Season of Turkey, which boasts a budget of around 20 to 30 million euros.

Among the most significant events in the remaining part of the Season of Turkeywas an exhibition that was opened at Paris' Grand Palais. On October 8, President Abdullah Gül and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, jointly inaugurated the “From Byzantium to İstanbul, One Port for Two Continents” exhibition, one of the major shows in the lineup. The chronological exhibition, illustrating the different phases in the history of the city,is featuring a selection of 300 items from various Turkish, French and international collections.

Three other major thematic exhibitions have been displayed at the Louvre from October 11 to Jan. 18, 2010. These are: “At the Court of the Great Turk: Kaftans from Topkapı Palace,” a look at the Ottoman court lifestyle and the sultan's regalia through kaftans, jewelry and accessories that once belonged to members of the imperial family; “From İzmir to Smyrna, Discovery of an Ancient City,” a chronological look at the Greek and Roman roots of the Aegean city with its monuments, carvings and most typical artworks; and the “Royal Tombs of Anatolia, Alaca Höyük in the Third Millennium,” which will explore the period of chiefs of tribes and clans in Anatolia in the third millennium BC.

The season will wrap up with an exhibition by the French-based Armenian-Turkish conceptual artist Sarkis Zabunyan, a true bridge linking the two countries, who will unveil an exceptional installation at the Centre Pompidou.

The events and timings can be found at


Monday - Friday

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