Born in Ghana, El Anatsui now works and teaches in Nigeria. From scavenged liquor bottle caps, tin cans, and other found objects, he makes shimmering monumental masterpieces, which exceed in beauty the finest fabrics or jewel-encrusted royal treasures. My friends and I–indeed everyone at the museum yesterday–marveled at his works. Gravity and Grace–Monumental Works by El Anatsui, at the Brooklyn Museum through August 4, 2013.
With a population of over 13 million and one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul has all the thrills, diversions, and energy of a huge cosmopolitan city. But all that can sometimes leave one wishing for a respite. We were treated to just that by our friend George. As a transplanted Texan who has lived in Turkey for the past 20 years, George combines the patented charm of the Turkish men with good old-fashioned Texas hospitality. Not really knowing any of the four of us, he nevertheless graciously invited us to be his guests on his farm outside of Erdek, a lovely small town a 2-hour ferry ride across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul.
George’s farm is flush with flowers, vegetables, fruit and nut trees. We were treated to apples, peaches, pears, pomegranates, plums, olives, and almonds all grown on his farm, as well as his own honey and fruit preserves. All were incredibly fresh and delicious. The almonds were small and crisp and tasted like they were infused with almond-oil compared to the ones we can buy in the States. To this feast, he added fresh, locally made borek (a Turkish pastry), baclava, and of course, tea.
We revelled in 2 days of lolling on his deck with spectacular views of the sea, strolling around the farm, and enjoying George’s good company. We watched the full moon rise and indulged in a delicious dinner seaside at Yesilim Camping and Restaurant–unassuming-looking and informal with fabulous seafood and vegetables.
The second day, after a stroll through Erdek with stops for lunch and ice cream, it was time to catch the ferry back to the bustle of Istanbul.
An errant Syrian mortar on October 3, 2012, brought death to a Turkish mother and her 4 children and focused world attention on the Turkish town of Akçakale, nestled up against the Syrian border. Turkey quickly retaliated by shelling military targets just across the border in Syria, killing several soldiers who were there defending the swaying Assad regime.
Only the week before and 20 miles away from Akçakale, we had bumped over gravel roads to a site that receives much less of the world’s fractured attention. Known as Göbekli Tepe, “Potbelly Hill,” this active archeological dig features circular arrays of massive standing stones with finely carved animal and human-like figures that have been dated to more than 11,000 years old, some 8,000 years older than England’s Stonehenge and 7,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
Both Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic have dubbed Göbekli Tepe “the world’s first temple.” National Geographic goes on to say,”Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.”
German archeologist Karl Schmidt began exploring and excavating the area in the 1990s, after other archeologists had given it short shrift. The discoveries there have set many a hoary archeological theory on its ear.
We were lucky to visit during the two-month period of the year when the area is an anthill of careful continuing excavation. We were moved and humbled to stand so close to such ancient and finely rendered artifacts and hope that the tensions and retaliations along the Turkey-Syria border do not damage this incredible site.