In 1915 the sound of gunfire echoed across the Gallipoli plain, bouncing off cliffs, and zipping past eardrums; may they now rest in peace.
100 years later the visuals, memories and sounds continue to surround us, shooting from cinema screens, sitting in the trenches of bookstores and laying deathly silent on gallery exhibition walls.
Hollywood actor/director Russell Crowe, Turkish author Buket Uzuner and Turkish artist Sema Bicik are showcasing things to be seen, read, examined and mourned while we commemorate the battle of Gallipoli one century on.
Russell Crowe’s feature ‘The Water Diviner’ narrates a story of an Australian father who loses his children during the 1915 campaign. Four years later he arrives into Istanbul in search of their remains. What he discovers on his journey is a tale of ‘history’ written by a different pen, a lesson in cultural values more complex than his own and a brotherly bond with Turkish generals.
Cenk Baban, a 40-year-old Australian with Turkish ancestry, was the cast assistant to Yılmaz Erdoğan during the filming. Cenk believes the most important aspect of the film, and one that makes it different to others, is its ability to begin a dialogue that engages both points of view.
Unlike previous Gallipoli movies, this story covers both sides and even the casting of the movie reflects this attitude. It’s a refreshing approach adding more authenticity to the story. CENK BABAN
In an interview on Australian TV, Russell Crowe discussed the notion of respect saying it is time Australians knew that the region of Gallipoli is actually called ‘Çanakkale’. He also said Australians are aware of how many ANZAC soldiers were lost but stressed it is equally important for Australia to understand the loss from a Turkish perspective.
Leading Turkish author Buket Uzuner is able to grab us by the hand and wade us through the muddy trenches of 1915 with her novel – ‘The Long White Cloud – Gallipoli’ (Published in New Zealand as ‘A Gallipoli Soldier’s Secret’).
The story leaps between time zones from 1915 to 2000 introducing us to a mystery involving a New Zealander and a Turkish villager 50 years her senior.
Uzuner transports us to the Gallipoli peninsula for a commemoration ceremony with the following paragraph, “The ground crunching as they walked… The Çanakkale soil that constituted the unmarked graves of thousands of youth was crunching, and each step seemed to mourn the story of a separate lad. The soil’s crunch was a hymn, those lying beneath it were a choir and those who walked above to commemorate them were a group of dancers.”
Turkish painter Sema Bicik received the Australian Ambassador’s Prize for the ‘Gallipoli Memorial Club’ arts competition in 2007. Her exhibition, ‘Gallipoli 1915’, is making a timely return to Istanbul this year (venue and dates yet to be announced). Painting with a surrealistic style Sema wanted to emphasize how inhumane war is and to remind us of the value of humanity and peace. Her goal was also to nurture our understanding of the bond that started between two opposite groups of soldiers at the frontline.
Engage with 1915
Sema Bicik, Buket Uzuner and Russell Crowe are all linked to the 100-year anniversary of Gallipoli. Their creative images and stories surround us like a patchwork throw rug. Each piece of the patchwork puzzle is inspired by the next but sewn by different hands and from a different mind.
Just as there are two sides to a sword, there are just as many sides to a story, perhaps more.
An awareness of all sides serves not to re-write history but rather to take steps to pen the next chapter.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Sema Bicik – www.semabicik.com
Watch the short film of Sema Bicik’s ‘Gallipoli 1915‘ exhibition.
You may also enjoy reading ‘Mehmet Güleryüz‘. The latest exhibition at the Istanbul Modern Museum with Turkish artist Mehmet Güleryüz. 200 pieces of work, from over 6 decades, many of it unseen… What more encouragement does one need to attend such an event?