His Mother’s Village
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 in the rain and took a photograph of Harmantepe, a village below the destination. I was able to get this drawing later. It took hours to draw, and am I glad I did.
What the well-dressed shepherd dons for a rainy day in the mountain village: Biblical shepherd’s crook, copious umbrella, riﬂe, cigarette and screaming neon green tennis shoes. A friend of Ridvan’s, it was his ﬂock we stopped for at Harmantepe. The sheep look like troops behind a general. I love this drawing.
Their old house in Çanakyayla – original Kurdish name: Werangazi Soddies like my ancestors lived in out on the American prairies
At last, the village of Celal’s mother. When she was born, people lived in this house, which shows the remains of a kitchen. Somebody lived in it not too long ago: rags of curtains still ﬂutter 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. Note the electrical lines. Until recently, villages as remote as this one had no electricity at all. Celal, a successful Istanbul restauranteur and entrepreneur, educates his daughter in New York and has sent his sister there as well. His brothers include a Turkish judge and a New York attorney. All from a family that started here a generation ago.
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 Celal’s mother’s sister. This lady was a proud 71 when she posed for me, and I did not cheat on her looks: she really does look like Jean Simmons the actress.
Despite the rain, Nazime’s husband was working the ﬁelds that day, so his brother came to act as host. All the while I was drawing him, 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. Back in Istanbul at Kalamar Restaurant, Mehmet Ali’s nephew holds his uncle’s picture.
These are traditional women, 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. It was an honor. Photographs of these ladies are forbidden, but nobody minded the drawings. The white lacy kerchiefs are for married women. Ceylan’s is streaked with vivid colour as she was as 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. We had a ﬁne time, ranging from snickers to belly laughs. Some things don’t need translating.