kayakoy passed from the festival
Kaya Connections, a multicultural international festival of literature, music, art, food and culture, brought hundreds of people to Kaya village, near Fethiye, last week, a six-day program, from April 27 to May 3, that has been hailed a great success for the organizers, Rebecca Keskin and Jane Akatay.
The festival, described as a celebration of the literature, film, music and food that connects Turkey and Greece, brought together in the same place for the first time in Kayaköy British writers Louis de Bernières, Victoria Hislop and Jeremy Seal, who flew over from the UK, a British/Greek author, Sofka Zinovieff (whose heritage is Russian), Turkish filmmakers Çağan Irmak, Mustafa Oğuz and Yusuf Karabol, and San Fu Maltha from the Netherlands.
Organizer Jane Akatay said: “We live in a beautiful part of Turkey that has had strong ties with Greece for millennia. We are looking, in a totally positive and non-political way, at the many connections in literature, film, food and music. It is of course a work in progress and can evolve over time, but if we can attract sponsorship and support at local, national and international levels, we firmly believe that this international festival can become a significant annual event. We also hope to be able to take this event across the Aegean to Greece next year.”
This year Tolga and Rebecca Keskin, owners of Günay’s Garden and Izela Restaurant, sponsored and hosted the main events, of which writer de Bernières said: “This really is a wonderful place for a festival like this and seldom have I been made to feel more welcome. Kayaköy is very special, an ideal venue and one to which I hope to be able to return for many years to come.”
De Bernières is the author of the epic story of an Anatolian village in the troubled years leading up to the founding of the Turkish Republic, and a chance visit to Kayaköy some 20 years ago inspired him to write the novel “Birds Without Wings.” At the festival, he also met with film producers Karabol and Maltha to continue discussions about the screenplay that could eventually bring his story to international cinema screens.
This year, de Bernières led a group of more than 120 people through the deserted ruins of Levissi, a town lived in mainly by Christians until their forced migration to Greece under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. At various points he stopped to read passages from his book in English, followed by Gamze Aybek, a young woman whose family comes from Kayaköy, reading the same passages in Turkish.
Kaya Connections 2013 was opened by Willy Buttigieg, the British consul in İzmir. Also present was professional interpreter Doğan Şahin, who pointed out that the date had particular significance, as the first friendship agreement between Turkey and Greece was signed on the same day, April 27, in 1938.
This was followed by a screening of Irmak’s film “My Grandfather’s People,” a ground-breaking and sensitive film in which Irmak shows the problems faced by his own family’s experiences in the population exchange. Following the film the audience was able to ask Irmak questions.
The second day opened to an eclectic handicraft and local produce fair, organized by the Travel Foundation, and the Taste of Fethiye team, Vicky Erdoğan and Şemsi Toprak. Victoria Hislop, author of several novels, including “The Island and the Thread,” spoke in front of an attentive audience on her passion for Greece and Turkey.
Sofka Zinovieff, author of “The House on Paradise Street,” talked about her book and experiences of living in the Greek capital. The novels have a common thread incorporating the themes, elements and events surrounding the 1923 population exchange and the profound and long-lasting effects it had on Greece, Turkey and the individuals involved. She commented on the festival, saying: “Kaya Connections has provided a perfect opportunity to people together in delightful surroundings. For all of us the relaxed, informal atmosphere has been very pleasant and something the organizers should try to maintain for future events.”
The final two literary events were talks given by amateur historian and Turcophile Peter Rogers on the earliest visitors to Kayaköy, as well as British writer and journalist Jeremy Seal, whose amusing and informative description of his research and travels for his latest book about the historic Büyük Menderes River, “Meander: Travels from East to West along a Turkish River,” provided an excellent way to draw to a close to the literary section of the festival.
An exhibition of paintings by Dutch-born artist Isabel Cordes opened at Birol Ganioğlu’s restaurant, Sarnıç, a restored example of the Rum Evleri, the Greek-style houses in Levissi, as Kayaköy is known in Greek.
A concert was held at Kaya Köyü Primary School, hosted by the school’s headmaster and village headman. Students from the Kaya School, Kibele Dance School and Ata Özel School danced, followed by ney, saxophone and darbuka music from Maren Lueg and Chas Whitaker, saz player Ahmet Erarslan, bağlama player Hasan Kal and the Ankara-based sextet Grup Egeli.
The famous British writers in attendance also saw the region; Bernières and Zinovieff shopped in Fethiye’s famous market before relaxing on the luxury catamaran “Catch Me.” Hislop, on the other hand, chose a more active way to see the countryside when she paraglided from the summit of Ölüdeniz’s Babadağ with Sky Sports. Upon landing she told her tandem pilot, Hasan, that she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing Turkey from more than 2,000 meters, and hoped to return soon for another go.
Finally, on Thursday, Günay’s Garden was transformed into a center for traditional crafts: workshops including carpet and dastar weaving, ebru and felt-making. Sitting in a massive, shady köşk, people were able to try their hand at these age-old Anatolian crafts.
Sponsors of the festival included the London office of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture, The Travel Foundation — a British not-for-profit organization that currently runs a sustainable tourism project, Fethiye Lezzeti, in the area — and Can and Cath İnanır, founder of Dalaman Cars and Sail Turkey.