An "Art Camp" Experience

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Monday, August 25, 2008

As of this writing I am in Day 5 of what's been billed as the Nilüfer International Art Camp. ( It was a good idea. It is being poorly executed. Nevertheless, I'm having some fun. That's the short take on it.

The camp has been promoted and arranged by a young resident of this suburb of Bursa, Turkey. I learned about it from a sub-group in a travelers' internet social network in which I participate. I volunteered. I wanted to meet people and get my hands busy doing something other than holding books to read.
   Other art camp volunteers learned about the project in various ways, and they have mostly come from Europe--both east and west--and two of us are from the farthest reaches: myself from the United States, and the other from India. (Much more about him later).
  Initially there were three components to the project: 1) Paint graphics on the outside walls of a community center; 2) Provide labor to the restoration of a community church cum mosque. I think it was an Ottoman era Greek and Bulgarian community church, converted to a mosque after the population exchange following the establishment of the Turkish Republic. (No room for that history here); and, 3) a film to be made documenting the first two processes.
  Well, it's not quite going according to plan.
  Or was there a plan? There was an idea, but was there a plan?

The funding for the project is, I think, being put up by the Nilüfer Municipality. The first day that we all got together was last Friday, the 22nd. While the other volunteers are being housed in another location, I elected to stay in my rented house in Bursa city proper. To join the rest of the group I have to take a metro train to the end of one of the lines, then be picked up in a minivan, to join the rest at either the housing locale, or at the project venue.
  When I finally joined the rest on Friday work was underway in the sense that the people for the building graphics were in a room at the art center, each working up sketches for their proposals for the graphics. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that each person would have a proposal for a single, personal piece on the theme of Peace. But instead, all were working on a single building concept: something having to do with "ribbons." I don't know how that came about.
   The first day I noticed that the group had three meals and a press conference where the mayor of this suburban municipality made a speech welcoming us. But we didn't really do any work.
   The second day was much the same. The graphics people continued on their proposals. I was slated for the church restoration work. So that crew was taken in the minibus to see the project. We looked around and in the building, then sat outside a tea house to talk about it. A woman architect spoke vaguely about the project. The church was to be converted into a community center. I was told the mayor was from that particular sub-community of the suburban municipality of Bursa. Initially these were little villages, now being slowly merged into the spreading suburbs of greater Bursa. The village had been initially populated by Christian Greeks and Bulgarians. I don't know about the Bulgarians, but the Greeks and Turks exchanged populations following the the defeat of the Greeks in a "civil" war of independence following the First World War.  Historical records of the church are, I guess, non-existent.
  I asked, (playing Devil's Advocate) why they wanted to restore the church rather than tear it down and build a nice new building. I was told "because of the law."
  About the time we were finished with our tea we were invited to a community event, which initially was thought to be a sünnet, a circumcision party (see Edirne entry). We were led down the village street to the yard of the mosque where a meal was being served up to everyone who was coming around. It turned out, I guess, to be a contest in Koran (or Kuran) reading. Whatever, we had a bit of the meal, then returned to the new (other) community center lunch with everybody else.
  I think by that time the graphics people had selected a "design" to get to work on. Many of the graphics people were art students from Europe. Two or three were students of art therapy. How they came up selecting the proposal by the leader of the graphics group (not an artist or art student) I don't know. But never mind.
  Since there was no work--for some reason--to be done just yet on the restoration project--the three of us foreign volunteers went along with the graphics folks to buy the paint materials. I was slated for the restoration work, but the painting seemed to be the going project, so I was anxious to get in on that. I can paint well, but had no concepts of my own. We went to one store, a store for interior and exterior acrylic paints. We went into Bursa city center to an art store for brushes.
The next day many started to translate the paper concept to the building wall in chalk outlines. Since this was a "committee"activity, let's just say that there were more than one interpretation for the flow of lines. I just waited to paint.
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