Exhibition commemorates 1964 expulsion of İstanbul Greeks
What would you cram into a suitcase if you were forced to leave your birthplace only with personal item weighing 20 kilos and money amounting to 20 dollars? This is might sound like a killer question to you, but thousands of İstanbul-born Greek people had to "answer" it in a very short time, when they were exiled from the city in 1964.

And now, an exhibition in İstanbul asks this question to each of its visitors as it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the deportation of nearly 13,000 İstanbul-born Greek citizens due to a decree issued by the then Turkish government on March 16, 1964 to use these people as trump card as a result of its inability to intervene the deepening Cyprus crisis in the way it wanted.

On display until March 30 at the Depo art space in İstanbul's Tophane neighborhood, the exhibition "20 Dollars 20 Kilos" takes its visitors into the lost lives and hopes of these exiled İstanbul Greeks through a series of historical documents, voice recordings, memorabilia, newspaper reports and a video work.

"In preparing the exhibition, [organized by the-İstanbul-based Babil Association in collaboration with the Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans], we have focused on the way how such a multi-layered and a relatively lesser-known tragedy should be explored and worked on. While remembering such a tragedy in its 50th anniversary, we needed to emphasize its human side as well," the curator of the show, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, told Sunday's Zaman in an interview.

"I mean, our aim is to propel any individual, who is not familiar with this event, to think that 'I might have suffered such a tragedy' by putting himself or herself in the shoes of these exiled Greeks in addition to establish a dialogue between the past and the current time," Büyüktaşçıyan continued.

ARABAŞLIK: Show provides means of empathizing with exiled Greeks

Among the significant tools the exhibition uses in achieving its goals are the old suitcases which are installed at the center of the exhibition venue to refer to the notions of leaving a place and exile, thus helping the visitors to empathize with the exiled İstanbul Greeks.

The curator said the suitcases at the center lead us to ask the questions "what could I cramp into a luggage if I were an exiled person and had only 48 hours or so to leave my birthplace? My memory? My neighbors and friends? The school and the theater that I used to go? The seaside of Bosphorus I used to walk along on the weekends? Which one of them?"

The answer to all of these questions is none, the visitors can understand by giving an ear to the stories of these exiled people via voice recordings and a video work. One of the striking stories comes from artist İvy Stangali, whose thoughts about İstanbul, 1964 exile and the changes in her life following the expulsion, were featured in a dubbed voice recording.

Stangali was one of the founders of the painting group "10-Group," which was established in 1947 by the students of the 20th century prolific Turkish artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu. In the recording, she says she was kicked out of İstanbul, where she was born, grew up, and communicated with the society through her art in 1964. "In Athens, I could not find the environment which nourishes my art, I could not adapt to there, I experienced lots of difficulties," the artist says.

Margarita Ludaru, another exiled İstanbul Greek who was interviewed by the exhibition organizers, tells she did not want to leave İstanbul when they were forced to migrate to Greece, adding she was pleased with her life in the city, in the video the exhibition presents in a small room. "The 1964 exile was the only event that broke the ties of the most of the İstanbul-born Greek people we had meetings for the exhibition with the life. They told they were not expecting such a decision from the then government and added it took a long time for them to accept the situation," Büyüktaşçıyan said.

"Up until that moment, many of these exiled people have been keeping the memory of the 1964 expulsion alive in their minds with the freshness of the moment they had to face it at first. Most of them suffer from the pain and longing that remain from a lost life and this is beyond the financial and property loss for them," the curator pointed out.

ARABAŞLIK: 'Part of İstanbul's soul dismissed with 1964 deportation'

Highlighting that aspect of the exile, the exhibition gives the message that 1964 is not only the year when nearly 13,000 İstanbul-born Greek citizens were exiled but it was a time when a part of İstanbul's soul was dismissed, as said in one of the articles installed one of the walls in the show's venue.

Other thousands of people from different nationalities, including the families of these 13,000 İstanbul Greeks, also became a part of the expulsion and some 40,000 Greeks had left İstanbul in a couple of months.(Greek people name this tragedy as "Apelasis.") The article also refers to the fact that these exiled people had nothing in common with the country they were forced to leave for apart from Greek.

Another wall of the exhibition space is devoted to the names of 2,000 İstanbul Greeks deported during the 1964 exile. The curator explained they aimed at bringing these people to the city they liked in alternative way by writing their names on the wall as opposed to the reality that most of them could not return to İstanbul.

"When the İstanbul-born Greek citizens migrated to Athens in 1964, they went though another otherization process and had to start over a new life by trying to leave all their sadness behind," the curator underlined. One of the exiled individuals notes they, as İstanbul-born Greek citizens, were being labeled as "Turkish seeds" in Greece while they used to be billed as "unbelievers" in İstanbul.

The exhibition also sheds light on how some of these exiled people were falsely judged by the Turkish media of the time. The news reports featured in the show tell of some of these İstanbul-born Greek citizens as people who were involved in activities that were against the law or harmful in justifying their expulsion.

"To shed light on such a lesser known event on its 50th anniversary, to learn about our past, to accept it and to continue our lives by taking lessons are important for us. We need to remember that we are essentially human beings and this is beyond the all ethnic identities and labels. … Remembering might help to start a process of recovery by digging up the [past] wounds," Büyüktaşçıyan ended.

"20 Dollars 20 Kilos" will travel to Ankara and Athens but the organizers have not yet announced when. An international conference titled "1964 Expulsions: A turning point in the homogenization of Turkish society" will take place in İstanbul's Bilgi University from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 as part of the exhibition. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)
Last Modified: 2014-03-13 22:00:01
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