Kaya Connections, a multicultural international festival of Literature, music, art, food and culture brought hundreds of people to Kaya village, near Fethiye, last week and the six-day programme, from 27th April to May 3rd, has been hailed a great success for the organisers, Rebecca Keskin and Jane Akatay.
The festival, described as a celebration of the literature, film, music and food that connects Turkey and Greece, brought together in the same place for the first time British writers, Louis de Bernières, Victoria Hislop, and Jeremy Seal who flew over from the UK, British/Greek author, Sofka Zinovieff (whose heritage is Russian) Turkish film makers, Çağan İrmak, Mustafa Oğuz, Yusuf Karabol and San Fu Maltha from Holland.
Jane Akatay said, “We live in a beautiful part of Turkey that historically has had strong ties with Greece for millennia. We are looking, in a totally positive and non-political way, at the many connections in literature, film food and music. It is of course a work in progress and can evolve over time but if we can attract sponsorship and support at local, national and international levels we firmly believe that Cultural Connections can become a significant annual event. We also hope to be able to take this event across the Aegean to Greece next year.”
This year Tolga and Rebecca Keskin, owners of Günay’s Garden and Izela Restaurant sponsored and hosted the main events, of which Louis de Bernières said, “This really is a wonderful place for a festival like this and seldom have I been made to feel more welcome. Kayaköy is very special; an ideal venue and one to which I hope to be able to return for many years to come.”
Louis de Bernières is the author of the epic story of an Anatolian village in the troubled years leading up to the founding of the Turkish Republic and a chance visit to Kayaköy some twenty years ago inspired him to write Birds Without Wings. Whilst at the festival, he also met with film producers Yusuf Karabol and San Fu Maltha, to continue discussions about the screenplay that could eventually bring his story to international cinema screens.
This year, Louis de Bernières lead a group of more than 120 people through the deserted ruins of Levissi, a town lived in mainly by Christians until their forced migration to Greece under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. At various points he stopped to read passages from his book in English. Gamze Aybek then read the same passage in Turkish.
Kaya Connections 2013 was opened by Willy Buttigieg, the British Consul for Izmir. Also present was Doğan Şahin who mentioned that the date had a particular significance as the first friendship agreement between Turkey and Greece was signed on the same day, 27th April 1938.
This was followed by a screening of Çağan İrmak’s film, ‘My Grandfather’s People’, a groundbreaking and sensitive film, in which he shows the problems faced by his own family’s experiences in the population exchange. Following the film the audience were able to ask İrmak questions.
The second day opened to an eclectic handicraft and local produce fair, organised by the Travel Foundation, and the Taste of Fethiye team, Vicky Erdoğan and Şemsi Toprak. Victoria Hislop, author of several novels including, The Island and The Thread, spoke in front of an attentive audience of her passion for Greece and Turkey.
Sofka Zinovieff’s, author of The House on Paradise Street talked about her book and experiences of living in the Greek capital. The novels have a common thread incorporating the themes, elements and events surrounding the 1923 population exchange and the profound and long lasting effects it had on Greece, Turkey and the individuals involved. Commenting on Kaya Connections 2013 she said “Kaya Connections has provided a perfect opportunity to bring people together in delightful surroundings. For all of us the relaxed, informal atmosphere has been very pleasant and something the organisers should try to maintain for future events.”
The final two literary events were talks given by amateur historian and Turcophile Peter Rogers on the earliest visitors to Kayaköy and British writer and journalist, Jeremy Seal, whose amusing and informative description of his research and travels for his latest book about the historic Buyuk Menderes river, Meander: travels from east to west along a Turkish river, provided an excellent way to draw to a close the literary section of the festival.
Art and Music
An exhibition of paintings by Dutch born artist Isabel Cordes opened at Birol Ganioğlu’s restaurant, Sarnıç a restored example of the Rum eveleri in Levissi.
A concert was held in Kaya Köyü First School, hosted by the headmaster and Muhtar. Students from the Kaya School, Kibele Dance school and Ata Özel School danced followed by ney, saxophone and darbuka music from Maren Lueg and Chas Whitaker, saz player Ahmet Erarslan, bağlama player Hasan Kal and Ankara based sextet, Grup Egeli.
These famous British writers also saw the region; Louis and Sofka shopped in Fethiye’s famous market before relaxing on the luxury catamaran, Catch Me, skippered by Can İnanır. Victoria Hislop on the other hand chose a more active way to see the countryside when she paraglided from the summit of Ölüdeniz’s Babdağ with Sky Sports. On landing she told her tandem pilot Hasan, that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing Turkey from more than 2000 metres and hoped to return soon for another go.
Finally, on Thursday, Günay’s Garden was transformed into a centre for traditional crafts: workshops including carpet and dastar weaving, ebru and felt making. Sitting in a massive, shady Köşk people were able to try their hand at these age-old Anatolian crafts. There was also a display of photographs from the Fethiye Photography Club.
Other sponsors included the London office of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture, The Travel Foundation, (a British not for profit organisation) that is currently running a sustainable tourism project, Fethiye Lezzeti, in the area and Can and Cath İnanır, founder of Dalaman Cars and sail Turkey. Doluca wines and Mehmet Cömert’s delicious olive oil from Ayvalık added some delicious Mediterranean ingredients to the festival.
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