Active in Istanbul – Martina Pavone

This active Italian is aiding Istanbul with social projects, ideas, empathy and limitless energy

IMG 6421 1024x768 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

Martina and I

In a city of 15 million, life can be unpredictable.

Without knowing what twists, turns and knots Istanbul may present each day, perhaps there is only one thing we can be certain of… there is only one Martina Pavone.

Everyone seems to know this Italian who has now made Istanbul her home. She can quite easily be described as the most active and involved expat of the city.

If ‘Martina’ were a magazine there is no doubt she would be a high-end glossy publication where every page would be a different story about her life, interests or one of her many social projects and ideas.

As this is only one page within the fictitious ‘Martina Pavone’ magazine, I suggest we first get to understand her in a general way and then perhaps further editions can explore her different projects in more detail one at a time.

If you don’t know Martina, it’s time you do.

Martina profile 300x300 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

It did not take Martina long to realise that she can not concentrate on only one thing at one time.

“My mind is going faster than you can see. I have two or three ideas per day. Sometimes I throw them away. But, sometimes it’s so powerful or right for the moment and environment that I feel like I have to do it.” Martina Pavone

Some abbreviations that started just like this, being mere thoughts darting through this Italian’s mind, belonging to neither time nor space, are MIIM, IIACC and ONAR.

Let’s expand on these a little, in a simple list format. If these are only three of her many ideas and projects, we can only imagine how overwhelming her CV must be as we take a small peek at the depths of her involvement within the Istanbul expat community.

MiiM Logo03 300x146 Active in Istanbul   Martina PavoneMiim Improvisation Festival - Although Istanbul has been her home for the past year and a half, Martina still keeps an eye on her home city as a project manager for Miim in Milan, which she says, “challenges the residents of Milan to view improvisation theatre as a new way of education, social integration and creative entertainment”.

Logo IIACC 173x300 Active in Istanbul   Martina PavoneIstanbul International A Cappella Choir IIACC – Not long after relocating to Turkey Martina developed IIACC with the Circolo Roma Association to which she directs an “experimental group of amateur musicians who focus on group vocal improvisation for social integration”.

IIACC is a special project for Martina telling me, “this naked instrument inside of us can allow us to share everything. It is a silent sharing when we are singing.”

Onar Logotype 300x111 Active in Istanbul   Martina PavoneONAR – Martina is a co-founder of ONAR, an idea “born from four women who have the experience of migration under their belt, a solid background in the social sphere and gender awareness”. The project provides a “safety net for foreign women”, because as Martina explains, “if the net is not there, there is risk”.

She says, “Women need advice, someone to talk with. Expats are lost or alone in new cities and they need a network. We create a network of people, councellors, and women from many different fields for them to access.”

Martina TEd X 300x200 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

Guest speaker – Ted X conference

After reading these three short explanatory paragraphs it is only natural to think of Martina as someone who sits in a land of fluffy white clouds and angel wings.

Perhaps so we don’t begin to refer to her as ‘Saint Martina’, let me reveal a weakness quite early on in this article, which will hopefully help to humanise this robust 28 year old Italian.

Martina conference 199x300 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

Words of wisdom at a conference

Our humble saint says she has a lot to work on telling me that like most people sometimes we ‘hear’ but don’t ‘listen’. “This is an ongoing personal project, I am trying to learn more and more about the listening part. I find myself better than a lot of people, but listening is a big problem for everyone. I understood that I have to work more to make it bigger and stronger especially if the goal is to help people.”

Still, even after this answer, I feel she is more saint than sinner.

If you ask me what I like about myself, I usually say my ‘smile’. But, of course, if you ask Martina the same question the response is much deeper.

“Empathy is the biggest thing I like about myself. I really feel. When I was young it was a problem for me, because I felt too much. I couldn’t control it.” Martina Pavone

Martina assures me that now she is in total control and uses it to benefit her profession/s.

We continue our chat and within moments Martina is wrapping her arms around herself. She uses this visual while saying, “This is how people kill me with their hearts. They see me and come and not just hug me, they…”. She continues a strong hold grip around her body.

She tells me this Turkish cultural flair for intimacy is quite different to the Milan method which is only ‘kiss, kiss’.

At first the intimacy that came with crossing a cultural border was quite a “traumatic” experience for Martina, but now she says she is able to “really appreciate it”.

DSC 0029 300x168 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

Directing IIACC

Something I didn’t mention so far in this glossy print Martina feature is that she is also a singer, composer and vocal arranger… Okay so now she seems a little less Saint and a little more Forest Gump; a character from the Academy Award winning film of the same name, who had diverse abilities from astronaut  to football star. Is there anything Martina can’t do?!

And so it is that this ‘Saint Forest Gump’ describes Istanbul to me in a way that only a composer could. “Istanbul is mad” she says, “because it doesn’t have a defined rhythm. It has a contrast that cannot be written down in a musical way…”

“Istanbul is really like a piece of contemporary music where every bar has a different rhythm and a different structure. It would be interesting to compose something to give this sense of Istanbul. A song, or city like this isn’t for everyone, but I’m really addicted. It’s perfect for me.” Martina Pavone

So, now you know Martina.

With management skills that can juggle more than an international circus performer, the empathy of ten social workers and project ideas that could spark a stampede at a table of entrepreneurs, the sound of this young woman’s name is resting on the earlobes of almost every Istanbul expat.

Whether you are an expat living in Istanbul or a Turkish local in need, it is only inevitable that one day you will meet this fabulous Italian.

Written by Sheldon Heyes

Martina mic 300x293 Active in Istanbul   Martina Pavone

Favourite thing in Istanbul – “The Kadıköy council and how they approach the cultural parts and political aspects of life. Also for their special treatment of street animals and their acceptance of foreigners. I feel comfortable. I feel I can go out at night by myself. This is something Milan didn’t even offer me. I feel better here than there, which is quite incredible and a nice sensation.”



You may also enjoy reading ‘The voice of Istanbul‘. The second edition of the fictitious ‘Martina Pavone’ glossy print magazine, exploring the social project IIACC – integrating Istanbul’s expat and local community through vocal improvisation and harmonies.

About Sheldon Heyes
Lifestyle writer for Turkey - I will prepare you for Istanbul. I will show you my city. Stemming from an Australian media background I have been in Istanbul since 2012. With a foreign heart and a writer's pen I have since embraced, danced, swallowed and mumbled the Turkish culture, music, food and language. Currently - Read by thousands of passengers zooming across the globe at 38,000 feet with Turkish Airlines inflight magazine 'Skylife'. Freelance contributor at The Guide Istanbul Magazine. Online guest posts with Freelance journalist published online at And... thanks to popstar and musician Mehmet Erdem, having a bit of cultural fun and flair appearing in the Turkish video clip - 'Aşkımız Bitecek'. Past contributions - Istanbul Timeout and Home Art Istanbul magazine.


  1. Saltanat Kydyrali December 16, 2014 at 03:59

    Sheldon, your pen is amazing!

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