While sheltering at home, take a few moments to click through the online version of Streetwise Istanbul: Seeing 'Other' As Self. This exhibition, hosted by Saranac Art Projects in Spokane, has been forced to close due to the coronavirus.
The show features images and conversations with street vendors, metro musicians, artisans and shop owners who make their living in neighborhoods bridging Europe and Asia. In many respects, their daily experiences mirror our own.
I'm a Spokane author who collaborated on this vibrant collection with Aramis Kalay, an Istanbul photographer. Kalay, whose work has been shown in Turkey and Europe, traveled to Spokane for the opening, his initial solo exhibition in the United States.
I first traveled to Turkey in 1985 and returned numerous times before conceiving this project. I studied at the University of Ankara’s Tomer Language School in Istanbul, hoping to talk with Istanbulites of all walks of life whom I met in the city.
I was curious to hear people’s stories and to ask them what wisdom they could share, but my Turkish never progressed much beyond, “Iki simit, lutfen,” “Two simits, please.” (Simit is a traditional Turkish pretzel-like snack.)
In 2012 while trekking the Lycian Way on the Turkish coast I met Tuana Çeik, a high school student bi-lingual in Turkish and English. Çeik agreed to translate for Streetwise Istanbul. When Çeik left for college in Bristol, UK, her younger sister Alara stepped in. Alara, now a student at the University of British Columbia, attended the opening reception at the Saranac.
The Streetwise team interviewed people in Istanbul over three years’ time, exploring a variety of districts in the city of 17 million people. My plan is to bring this exhibition to other cities across the US.