IN THE KINGDOM OF URARTU
Book 32
In The Kingdom of Urartu at Lake Van in Adilcevaz
21 April-4 May 2016
Urartians Statuette in the British Museum: This land where so many have lived, and until 100 years ago, in peace: Turks, Armenians, Kurds. I find it apt that this statue has no face.

Project inception: Old friend Celal Ögmen, proprietor of Kalamar Restaurant in Kumkapi, asked me to go to Van Province in Eastern Turkey and draw his mother’s village. It’s A Suphan, a tiny town above Suphan Dag (Mountain), near the city of Adilcevaz in Bitlis Province, to the west of Lake Van. I learned that Lake Van was the centre of The ancient Kingdom of Urartu, a civilisation that flourished 3-4000 years ago. We know it as Ararat.

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Ataturk Airport flight to Van: Couple waiting for the plane. Brrr. Sneaky People. These were the only sneaky people I saw on the entire trip.

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700-year old Arabic writing carved in wall stones at Ulu Camii. Had to draw Saliha this lovely woman on the bus. — I don’t think anyone had ever drawn a picture of her before, and she was thrilled. The Arabic writing is carved in a stone wall inside the mosque on the side of Kef Kalesi, in Adilcevaz on the Western shores of Lake Van. It and the mosque are about 700 years old.
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KEF KALESI ADILCEVAZ Kef Kalesi, Adilcevaz, Van c1500 BCE Ulu Camii c1300 CE — This majestic ruin of an ancient city permits an entire mountain rising at the edge of Lake Van. Archeologists have removed ancient artifacts to the museum in Van. Each terrace held houses, and the rooftops of one level were the balconies of the next. At right, you can see fragments of old stonework, traces of huge arches and passages. At centre is Ulu Camii, a 700 year old mosque with a modern glass minaret. Sheep graze below what must have been the fortress an entire village.
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KEF KALESI FIRST LOOK Adilcevaz Hotel Cevizlibag from the breakfast room “Kef Kalesi” What IS it? — My first look at Kef Kales: As I drew I was stunned to realise it was ancient stonework rising out of the mountain behind the house at right. At left are snow-covered mountains in Iran, across Lake Van.
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CEZAYIL IN ADILCEVAZ Cezayil with a name like an archangel Adilcevaz Appears to be having a great deal of fun with life. — Cezayil, pronounced “jez ZILE” is the chef in charge of Hotel Cevizilibag’s kitchen. He and his staff took excellent care of me.
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First shot at this old mosque ruined by frenetic interest in my drawing. All the old men come to pray, the police to check me out and staying for photos, the governor and the media who forgot about him and clustered around ME. Flattering but good grief! Later, Abdullah & I sneaked back quietly ad I got the picture on the next page.

My guide, Abdullah, took me to Kef Kalesi, and I set about drawing across from the mosque, looking down at this one on the shore. It was a Friday, and old men began toarrive at the mosque to pray. I was soon surrounded! Then the police arrived, to see what we were about. Much bonhomie with them, and then came the picture on the next page.e a TV news truck, with cameramen and news anchors, interviewing me with much help from Google Translate. Hardly anyone in town speaks English, and my Turkish is limited. By now there was a perfectly huge group of excited people and it was impossible to draw. Lastly arrived a long black car with the mayor. He was charming, considering that I had pre-empted his own interview. They don’t see many artists in Adilcevaz.

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OLD MOSQUE ON THE WATER Adilcevaz – Bitlis – Lake Van Ertugrul Bey Camii
April 22 2016

42 years today

I don’t know how old this mosque is, but it pre-dates the highway by a couple of centuries, judging by the depth of its entrance. In the background is Lake Van, ringed by snow-whitened mountains. Abdullah and I sneaked back after the crowd left, and I got this drawing in a couple of hours. The date is a private anniversary.

 

 

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LAKE VAN The ancients gazed at these mountains from this forever sacred place 22 April 2016 Lake Van in front of Ulu Camii- Adilcevaz — Mere pen and ink does not begin to do justice to the symphony of white mountains floating above the pale lake. But the attempt — if you’re lucky— is art.
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TEAHOUSE AT ULU CAMII The teahouse at Ulu Camii. Kef Kales, Adilcevaz, Lake Van. Terraces cut 3500 years ago roll up from the lake. Everyone in town knows this spot: a happy tranquil place. And you can drink the water. — I spent a few hours drawing this, with a couple of interested gentlemen from the mosque checking in now and then to see how it progressed. As I drew, groups of people drove up and sat chatting in the teahouse. This is the same view the denizens of the ancient city had, from every single house, rising in tiers up from the lake.
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ÖMER F DUK & TEAHOUSE
Ömer Farouk Duk, ten, son of the owner of the hotel where I’m staying, demonstrating why I should draw him. Before breakfast. We made a deal: I keep the original, and I eat my breakfast first. 27 April Adilcevaz
PS I’ve become very fond of this kid and his bright observant enthusiasm.
What a charmer!
Teahouse with empty nest and reclining rock empress.

Take one on the teahouse. Check out the perfect imperial profile on the rock in the foreground! Ömer got a copy of his portrait.

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ABOVE THE TOWN The mountains are inscribed with the signs of ancient temples I want to get up there! — Squinting at these hills from the hotel’s breakfast room, I could see traces of ancient building. It reminded me of the way old graffiti looks in Hagia Sophia: you can’t read it, but you know it ain’t part of the marble.
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KEF KALESI
Kef Kalesi Adilcevaz
Kingdom of Urartu c780 BCE

All these differing dates are true… the culture of Urartu did flourish here for thousands of years, but disappeared. It’s believed Urartians are the ancestors of the Armenian people. The town is proud and proprietary of their ruin, as well they might be. There was much intermingling between Turks, Kurds and Armenians before the governments began to interfere, around 1900.
This drawing took two hours and was witnessed by groups of giggling schoolchildren. I realised right away that I could easily spend the whole time in Van drawing this particular site. But I was frustrated at the time by knee problems, and knew I couldn’t get up those steep slopes to wander in the ruins themselves. See the figure just right of centre, standing on the oil with arms outstretched, taking in the whole world of lake and white mountains and cold clear air. How I envied him!

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KEF KALESI DOORS
Doors Kef Kales – Adilcevaz
A c3000-year-old doorway. Fascinated by the way this rock ages. It looks like the ancient Urartians scored the living rock and created a castle out of the very mountain. There is a legend of treasure hidden here, but no one knows where. I think we’re looking at it.

These doors lead to tunnels going throughout the mountain. In addition to the usual rumours of treasure, Abdullah told me that they are well-explored by archeologists. Things found there are in the Archeological Museum in Van.

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KELES FAMILY Keles Family Adilcevaz Derya Turan Bey Nürgül Karen Abdullah Omer The best meatballs I ever ate. — Abdullah is a cousin of my patron, Celal. He and his family picked me up at the airport bus in Van and took me home to dinner. His mother, smiling here right of centre, made from a secret family recipe: meatballs like malt balls, with liquid soft centers. Highly addictive! Abdullah’s wife Derya is in the university at Van. HIs brother Omer is principal at a village school that serves three towns.
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BUDAY FAMILY MATRIARCH Hanife: Buday Family matriarch — A monolithic presence and great humour. I drew Hanife later from a photo.
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BAHAR & HER MOTHER Bahar and her mother 24 April 2016 Derya Hanife — At the family enclave, a tree-lined grassy enclosure with houses and sheep. Here also is Hanife the first time I saw her, drawn from life with her granddaughter Derya. The whole Buday family knocked themselves out to make me welcome. Bahar’s mother had decked her out in this red dress and shoes. Adorable!
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AZIZ FIXING MY PHONE Bahar Aziz fixing my phone Drawn while the phone was down A beautiful place, sheltered and shaded by trees all ‘round. While I was there they chainsawed every one of these tall healthy trees, bird-nests and all. It was like watching a man murder his own children. And they were so NICE! — The whole family knocked themselves out to show me a good time. I don’t know why they sold their trees but probably needed the money. I did my best to conceal my horror but failed as the tears streamed down my face. So I drew the trees as fast as I could. The minute I stepped out of the car, my new iPhone shut down. I’d been warned by Turkcell that the government might block it, as it was American. So I was panicked. But it was just Apple insisting on installing a new system that exact minute. Aziz understood and watched as the new system took hold, reassuring me in sign language. Another cousin had a working copy of Google Translate and explained. We all had a good time anyway.

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OKTAY ON THE FLY
Done on the fly 24 April

He had never had a portrait, and pleaded for one. I didn’t mind! This guy later showed up in Adilcevaz at 5M to drive me six blocks to the bus stop, the day I left.

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THE AQUEDUCT AT SÜPHAN A shepherd: the aqueduct at Asagi Süphan — He leaped up on the very edge of the ancient aqueduct and harangued the sheep, while all around him was glory. He did it just as I had gotten to that place in the drawing, as though it had been planned. We are in A Suphan, where project patron Celal Ögmen grew up, and he particularly asked me to draw the aqueduct. This took about an hour and a half to draw, sitting on the old stones while chickens strutted nearby. That’s Lake Van out there, and this aqueduct originally ran all the way down to it, about 4000 years ago.
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A SÜPHAN ON LAKE VAN A Suphan for Celal — Project patron Celal Ögmen grew up in this village a few decades ago. He came to Istanbul as a teenager. He stood outside a prosperous fish restaurant in Kumkapi: Kalamar, saying in to the tourists in all their languages, “Come here and eat fish.” Now he owns the restaurant and the one next door, educates his daughter in New York, is a cornerstone of local industry and a patron of the arts. One brother is a judge, the other a barrister in New York. You can do anything with brains and moxie.
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SÜPHAN DAG
Father Mountain 24 April 2016

Celal wanted drawings of what he saw as a child when he climbed up this hill over the town:
In one direction, the town, and in the other, this second-tallest mountain in Turkey. Everyone in town calls it Father Mountain.

 

 

 

SHEEP IN KARASEYF
Outside the new school in Karaseyf Köy
Clouds streaming up from the top of the mountain (Suphan Dagi)

Here’s the other side of Süphan Dag, since Karaseyf is on the other side of the mountain from A Süphan. I was outside the school, drawing like mad as sheep and tractors paraded by and students and teachers giggled and watched over my shoulder. A happy time!

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RUINED ARMENIAN CHURCH
Armeni Kilisesi— 22 April 2016
In the centre of an immense green haven-improbable pink bushes— absolute peace… shepherds, Kongal dogs, mooing cows, drifts of conversation from the guides away o— ver the grass. These are Armenian churches.

One of the happiest drawing experiences ever. Abdullah and his pal wandered away and left me blissed out and drawing for a couple of hours. They said that yes, the area to the left and behind the ruined church at centre is another settlement. The dark hill at left was covered with those salmon-pink bushes. At right, reflected sunlight arced up from a hamlet hidden behind the hill.

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LITTLE GIRLS WITH TOMBSTONE
A Süphan , Adilcevaz, Van.
These little girls are out in their front yard, and so is this Armenian tombstone.

“For centuries we lived in peace, us and the Kurds and the Armenians, and then they f- cked it up.” — a Turkish acquaintance in Van. The horrific fate of Turkey’s Armenian population is well known. As the Ottoman empire broke up, they were massacred. Almost exactly 100 years before I drew this, all the Armenians were either killed, marched away, or forced into hiding by Ottoman soldiers. They left artifacts all over Van province, mute testimony to a vanished culture. Some survived by being absorbed into Kurdish or Turkish families. I met many people who said, “Oh my grandmother was Armenian…” etc. Innocents like these little Kurdish girls were simply born into the wake of blood, standing in their own front yard over an exquisitely carved tombstone that was obviously half-buried, probably under their cinderblock house in the sheep pasture.

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RECEDING WATERS OF STONE Squint at this hill and the scattered rocks and bushes become sea-foam, drenched survivors creeping out of the caves, staring at the receding waters. Down through the valleys, Lake Van stretches shimmering to the white mountains, floating in their mist across the border in Iran. As I drew, Abdullah brought me this fossilised seashell. The Flood. — Can’t you just see it? I still have the shell. It’s got a bit of actual shell attached, but most of it is solid stone. This view was to my left as I drew the ruined Armenian church on the mountain.
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ABDULLAH KELES
The best guide in the Kingdom of Urartu, Abdullah Keles 2016.

A super guy who showed me things I hadn’t known to ask about. He and his wife Derya took me all the way to Van to the museum there. We couldn’t chat much but did fine with Google Translate. Like everyone in the region he’s a whiz with technology.22Van Ayran e1539959931689 300x293 - Kingdom of Urartu

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SEVILAY She has a tidy and clean little restaurant in Adilcevaz and served us wonderful food.
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STONE SHEEP IN VAN
Man with shield and Kongal dog
Life-sized: A flock of stone sheep at the Archeological Museum in Van. It’s closed for renovation. These are out front in the sculpture garden. I think they’re of Urartu: c3000 years old. And at right, the lions lie down with the lamb.
How may mothers’ sons have been bundled up and set on these to play? In three thousand years?
A saddled mystery mount
carved dagger on other side.

Many sheep have a dagger carved into their sides like decoration Could these have been a form of tribute, with the dagger a led-e to stand together in time of war?
Van 27 April 2016

Abdullah and Derya’s adorable two-year-old playing on the sheep. Check out the close- up at top left: If that isn’t a man with a shield and a Kongal dog, I don’t know what it is. The museum, which was being repaired after an earthquake, has since re-located, and I can’t wait to go back and see more.

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20On Kef Kalesi - Kingdom of UrartuKEF KALESI WITH SCULPTURE
Double exposure: Sheep grazing on Kef Kales above Ulu Camii’s bricks, and sculpture from this ancient site, with me, at the museum in Van.
Very happily drawn on my mother’s 95th birthday
26 April 2016

My mother had been gone for 22 years, but I felt her strongly while I drew this. A brilliant day, and gazing up at and drawing the fantastic stone fortress, softened by grazing sheep, filled me with euphoria so strong it was hard not to stop and dance. The mosque’s bricks seemed anticlimactic to such wonders, so I left it blank util I found a photo of myself in Van, standing next to the ancient Urartian bas-relief. From this very site, it shows what they looked like. They held their own against the Assyrian empire, but still vanished about 2700 years ago, succeeded by the Armenians.

 

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KARASEYF
In Karaseyh Köy from the new school

A shepherd brings the flock home past the raw bricks of the only school in three villages.

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VOLUNTEER TEACHER
A volunteer at the school teaches math and history

Although this school serves 100 students for three villages, there is not much money. This lady volunteered to teach math and history, since she knows the subjects, but I do not think she is paid. The principal of this school is Omer Keles, my guide Abdullah’s brother. He is dedicated to educating these kids by all means available.

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TEACHERS AT THE NEW SCHOOL Seçil Ezra at 25 Teachers at Karaseyh’s new school. There’s so little money they are buying the textbooks themselves. — Esra was celebrating her 25th birthday with friends in Urfa. “We have to leave now,” she said apologetically, ”to get through Diyarbakir before sunset...” — Three villages, almost 100 children, a new school but hardly any money. It includes a daycare center, English lessons, clean big airy bright classrooms, and a dedicated staff of enthusiastic young teachers, including beautiful Ezra on her birthday. Ömer Keles, brother of Abdullah my guide, is principal.
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HAPPY SHEPHERD
“Happy to be a shepherd” in Karaseyh Köy
30 Apri 1016
He dropped out of school- said he’d rather be a happy shepherd than study. He’s ten. —
This was relayed to me by a dismayed Ezra. The kid refused to learn to read, even, and his parents allowed him to leave. But he and the sheep do look happy!

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S[h]emsattin Köstekçi
A man of substance!
1 May 2016


Shemsattin owns a hat import business and occupies the house opposite the hotel, which looks out at Kef Kalesi and the lake. He’s a friend of the hotel owner, and showed up well dressed and asked for a portrait. Normally I field such requests, but one look at that moustache, hat and demeanor made me change my mind. He gave me a hat!

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SHRINE AT AHLAT
Four at the shrine in Ahlat
30 April 2016

A great Muslim saint is buried here in this shrine. All day while I drew, groups of fundamentalist Muslim men came and knelt, praying at the shrine. While all the while a woman in traditional dress sat at right and tended to things on her phone.

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KID & BRONZE GONG Youngest Keles & bronze— Abdullah and Derya’s adorable son in front of a bronze well cover or gong from Urartu, at the museum in Van. — I dunno what it is, but it was perfectly round and looks heavy as all get-out.
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THEY BOUGHT ME ICE CREAM Beautiful girls of Ahlat all dressed up and excited to be out! They bought me ice cream! — The shrine at Ahlat is the centrepiece of a vast landscaped cemetery that is also a park, on the edge of Lake Van. It was Sunday, and these girls were all made up and dressed up and out for the day, carrying their computers and phones, having a wonderful time. They crowded around while I was drawing the pavilion, tilted over the roots of the tree, and brought me an ice cream bar. Each girl looked very different, but they were all so vibrant and beautiful I just had to draw them.
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HARMANTEPE Harmantepe- very wet cold day 1 May 2016. — Another cousin of Celal’s, Ridvan, showed up at the hotel to take me at last to the village I’d come to draw, up in the mountains above Adilcevaz. We drove through misty rain under lowering clouds, and these four mountains brooded in front of us all the way: dark and implacable. On the way, we stopped for a flock of sheep, and I got out and took a photograph of this village. I was able to get this drawing later. It took hours, and the rain would have made it impossible in any case.
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NAZIME AKKUS Nazime Akkus 1 May 2016 Çanakyayla Mother of 11 in a small mountain village far from everywhere — Far from everywhere except the spectacular mountains, the fields, and each other. Nazime told me that she had 14 children, but three died. She is Cela’s mother’s sister. This lady was 71 when she posed for me, and I did not cheat on her looks: she really does look like Jean Simmons the actress.
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MEHMET ALI AKKUS Çanakyayla 2016 — Nazime’s husband had to work the fields that day, so his brother came to act as host. All the while I was drawing, a bunch of small boys ran in and out and perched here and there, watching, while Nazime’s daughters and daughters-in-law came in and out laughing and bringing food. It was a happy day.
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THEIR OLD HOUSE IN ÇANAKYAYLA Their old house in Çanakyayla - original Kurdish name: Werangazi Soddies like my ancestors lived in out on the American prairies — This is the village Celal’s mother was born in; drawing it was the reason for the project. When his mother was born, people undoubtedly lived in this house, which showed clear remains of a kitchen. Somebody lived in it not too long ago, for there were still the rags of curtains fluttering near the remains of a window. To the right, a rock house with a sod roof shelters sheep. In the distance are modern cinderblock houses. Notice the electrical lines. Until recently, villages as remote as this one had no electricity at all.
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WOMEN OF THE AKKUS FAMILY Women of the Akkus Family Çanakyayla Nazime Sibel Imran Ceylan Çanakyayla 2016 — These are traditional girls, and one is married into the family. They never show their faces except to their husbands and to other women, but they were happy to be drawn. We had a fine time with much cracking up. The white lacy kerchiefs are for married women. Ceylan’s is streaked with vivid colour as she was yet unmarried. Whenever RIdvan or Mehmet came into the room, back went the face veils. All around our feet was a horde of obstreperous little boys. I posted a commemorative photo, but got an immediate call from Celal in Istanbul requesting I take it down. Two of the girls’ husbands worked for him at the restaurant there. “Kids are fine,” he said, “and drawings are great, but nobody wants a picture of his wife or sister all over the Internet.” But they loved the drawings.

KAVAK TREES IN VAN Grand Deniz Turizm Restaurant last stop before Akdamar
3 May 2016

Who knew I was allergic to poplar trees? I love them— but sometime since they chopped down every single one in Istanbul, I developed an allergy. Once I went into a pharmacy and described the symptoms, they fixed me right up with a syrup and some pills. These are planted in rows just at the pier for the boats to Akdamar Island in Lake Van, where I wanted to go.

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AZIZ IN THE ARMY
Aziz in the Army 2016

Remember Aziz Buday, who fixed my phone back in A Suphan? He became a Facebook and Instagram friend, and when he went into the Army some months after my visit, he asked me to draw his picture. Here he is!

DAPPER SHEPHERD
Dapper Shepherd at Harmantepe

What the well-dressed shepherd shall wear on a rainy day in the mountain village: Biblical shepherd’s crook, copious umbrella, rifle, cigarette and neon green tennis shoes. A friend of Ridvan’s, it was his flock we stopped for at Harmantepe, and I got this drawing. The sheep look like troops behind a general. I love this drawing.

 

 

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RIDVAN AKKUS
Ridden Akkus 1 May 2016

Ridvan took a day off work at the electrical plant, donned a suit, and drove me all over the mountains in the rain so I could draw his mother, sisters, uncle, friends and villages. What a guy!

ARTOS MOUNTAIN & KAVAK TREES Artos Mountain Kavak Trees

Waiting for the ferry to Akdamar
Snow-streaked mountains behind thrilling sheaves of poplar trees
And then the pale sheet of the sea… a common sight around here.
3 May 2016

All over Van are these stands of white poplars with the white-streaked mountains behind. The lake is so vast it looks like a sea. As I drew this, the man in the picture walked up and down the rows, planting his field. I was waiting for the only boat to Akdamar. Since there was no tourism, there were no boats, but I lucked out: a large Turkish family had booked one, and they invited me to come along.

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HOLY CROSS AT AKDAMAR Armenian, Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Sourp Khatch) Akdamar Island, Van. 10th Century, King Gagik Ardzrouni of Vaspurakan Figures: L: John the Baptist. R: St Gregory the Illuminator. Medallion: Unknown Simplicity + Isolation = Art — Now we come to the reason for my trip to Van: to draw the church on Akdamar Island. The palace-city here in the lake was thousands of years old, part of the Kingdom of Urartu. Later it was occupied by Armenian Christians. The 9th-century church is made of cinnamon-colorer stone. The outside is covered with bas-reliefs: giant figures illustrating the Bible, carved with audacity and humor in 915 CE. Armenian scholars assure me that there is nothing like this art anywhere else. Unlike so many Armenian churches and monasteries, this one was saved from destruction in the 1950s by a Turkish poet, who literally stopped the bulldozers which had destroyed the ancient city around it. In 2005 it was preserved by the Turkish government, which cleaned off the carvings and put glass in the broken windows. It is a major tourist site and well worth a trip to Van. Once a year, the Armenian Patriarch is allowed to perform an Easter service. Since I was only able to be on Van for two hours, I took photographs. The entire section on Akdamar was drawn from them, over the summer following my visit. We are indebted to the Eskitasçioglu Family for making my visit possible, by including me in their family party.
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BIBLE STORIES IN STONE These figures are about 3/4 life-size, protrude about 4 inches from the stones from which they are carved, and decorate the entire church. I suspect they were carved in situ. The mounted figures at left are archangels. Top centre are a lion and a bear. All of these are actual Biblical figures, but the identities of the kneeling man and the trio at right are anyone’s guess.
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JONAH AND THE WHALE That’s Jonah and his mates in the ship at left. “Whale” is an English translation. Other interpretations refer to a “Monster.” I could easily spend a year drawing all of the stories on this church.
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APOSTLES AT HOLY CROSS Apostles at Holy Cross Aghtamar - Lake Van 2016 — Inside the church, the art looks much more recent. Also it is unfinished, and the interior shows signs of fire damage. The pale shape at centre is a window. To the left is St Peter, to the right is St Paul. Ss Matthew and Mark appear to St Peter’s left, and Ss Luke and John to St Paul’s right. Other apostles flank them. Above the centre window, the artist had outlined the border, but had not finished painting it in. As the church was shut down and the monks massacred by Ottoman troops in 1915, I think the frescoes date from then.
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JACOB & THE ANGEL, DANIEL & THE LIONS Holy Cross Aghdamar 2016 A laughing angel pulls the hair of a startled saint. O those ancients! Got to be Jacob wrestling with the angel. — A tall smiling man is flanked by two lions. Their tails are between their legs, denoting submission, and they are licking his feet. This is clearly the Old Testament story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
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BUNNIES & GRIFFINS & BEARS OH MY!
A shot-up saint over a zoological stack of fabulous creatures, with two happy bunnies in the centre. The rabbits are indigenous to Akdamar Island, and to many other islands nearby. Most of them are black, a hallucinatory hippity-hop among the rocks and seagulls. Torn-up celery and lettuce for the bunnies line the tourist walkways. Centuries of monks must have dined on these rabbits, worn their fur and probably made pets of them as well. They are accompanied by white goats and gulls.

DAVID & GOLIATH FOR PHOEBE
Standing right next to the wall. This was drawn two years after the rest, from a photo, on the day after a great friend died. I wasn’t good for much else that day, and always wished I could have taken her there. She would have loved the irony of such humour and light carved in stone. And God knows she wielded her slingshot all her life with grace and skill, slaying many giants.

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MATRIARCH AT AKDAMAR
Magnificent matriarch of the Eskitasçioglu Family at Holy Cross on Aghtamar

This lady and I had some conversation on the boat coming over. She was unable to navigate the steep path up to the church, so I drew her inside it. Al her children and grandchildren are doctors and dentists. She has a beautiful smile!

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ADAM & EVE AT AKDAMAR 2016 Adam & Eve at Holy Cross Aghtamar Island Lake Van 915-921 AD — This last date refers to when they were carved. Note that Adam and Eve were carved sans gentitalia. Despite damage by vandals, both still have curiously benign expressions. Down in the lower right corner is a an eviscerated female figure. The vandals left the snake alone, perhaps for professional courtesy.
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THE MONKS OF HOLY CROSS Bunnies among the tombstones on Aghtamar Island, Lake Van. — Oh it is remote. Dead silent, miles of pale water between you and the shore, no electricity, freezing in winter, much discipline, much work. What the monks lacked in creature comforts was replaced by the absolute luxury of their art and craftsmanship. There was a library here, and perhaps manuscript illumination, as well as the carved bas-reliefs, the paintings, the stonework. These gravestones are from many centuries and surround the church. Some have been knocked down, others broken or eroded, but each intricately decorated tombstone, created with patience and care, celebrates an entire life dedicated to faith.

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