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The voice of women echoes through time

A soft white tablecloth with embroidery. It hangs calmly and modestly on the wall. But the embroidered text is powerful and asks provocatively: “How should women behave?”

Another area in the exhibition room is full of dozens of women’s magazine title pages. They were produced and published by women. In a gentle voice, they fought powerfully for the rights of women in the Ottoman Empire in a society dominated by men.

The Curators Dicle Beştaş and Didem Yazıcı reflect on their Curatorial studies during the times of their residencies at the Tarabya Culture Academy with a Set up in the Tea House of the historic summer residence of the German ambassador.

Artist Hale Tenger was their dialogue partner in Istanbul. She is one of the strongest and most powerful female voices of contemporary art in Istanbul. The cloth on the wall is her artwork from 1995: In memory of Nedime Sara (Other Times, other manners).

The text is a letter by Nedime Sara, an Ottoman Lady in Trabzon writing a letter to the magazine “Kadınlık” (womanhood) in 1914. She reflected on the conflicts in a household inhabited by three generations of Ottoman women. While the magazine published in Istanbul questioned the sense of veiling in public, Nedime Sara was confronted with being locked up in the house and not allowed to appear at the window. “Yes, our perception on womanhood is still in a primitive stage. I wonder when all these conservative minds and fallacies will end.”, she asked in her letter that was published in the magazine.

The Curators present publications of Women’s magazines from the 19th century until today on another wall. The rediscovery of the Ottoman publications was a hot topic in the 1990th in Turkey when Hale Tenger produced the artworks. After a long period of “State Feminism” from the 1930th to the 1990th, Feminists rediscovered the strong Ottoman Women’s Right movement in this period the Curators are quoting. They promise to continue on this road and open up new chapters later.

The exhibition From Ladies World to Roza is the first presentation of a long-term exhibition project, which aims to revise current art practices via the different histories of women’s magazines from the Ottoman Empire to modern-day Turkey. Feminism in Turkey had its origins in the mid-19th century when a group of women began publishing women’s magazines in various languages to voice their dissatisfaction with a society controlled by males. These magazines influenced a big part of the women’s rights movement. The wall presentations aim to provide a brief and alternative history of intersectional feminism in Turkey via the use of magazine covers dating from 1845 to the present.

Hale Tenger focuses on multifaceted approaches to creating. Her artwork addresses modern social, political, and cultural issues in Turkey, particularly the subject of femininity. “In memory of Nedime Sara (Other Times, other manners)” explores the female voices in Ottoman society, the long history of resistance against the deep-seated patriarchal structures, and evaluates the strength of writing as a central form of struggle. Four huge nails hold the white tablecloth in place, giving it an unusual appearance. The visual language of street demonstrations is cited by the symbolism of a banner and makes the work itself part of a rooted form of resistance the Curators underline. They describe the presentation as a teaser for a large-scale exhibition reflecting the diverse history of Feminism in Turkey, including Armenian, Kurdish and Queer positions. Looking forward to it.

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