Street cleaner swept to fame with statue in his honor
“This statue sculpted by Güner Yener is dedicated to Gazi Ceran, a hardworking and environmentally aware street cleaner working for the Maltepe Municipality who has served in the Yalı neighborhood for 17 years and has earned the appreciation of locals because of his services.”
Yes, you can believe what you read. The above statement can be found on the plaque of a statue of a man with a broom in his hand in a neighborhood of İstanbul’s Maltepe district. Gazi Ceran, a local street cleaner, was recently honored by the residents of the area he has been keeping clean for years when they erected statue in his likeness in the center of Yalı, an honor that probably has never before been bestowed upon any other local street cleaner.
“I have been sweeping the streets of this neighborhood for 17 years. Although I don’t live here, I know all the residents, and we are like a family. They sometimes ask me, ‘Don’t you get bored or tired?’ I say, ‘No.’ I earn my bread from this job. I am neither ashamed of my job nor fed up with it. You cannot imagine how I felt when I heard that the locals decided to erect a statue of me,” Ceran, the much-loved street sweeper of the Yalı neighborhood, told Sunday’s Zaman.
Ceran, 50, was employed as a street cleaner by the Kartal Municipality in 1983 and was then employed by the Maltepe Municipality to clean the Yalı neighborhood in 1992. He has worked in the neighborhood since that time except for one day’s absence. “It was the day when the municipality assigned me to another district. But the Yalı residents asked the municipality to send me back to their neighborhood. I returned here after a one-day separation,” Ceran says.
Ceran has been experiencing personal hardships recently. He lives with his 21-year-old son in Pendik. After his first wife, the mother of his son, died of stomach cancer he married another woman. She died of colon cancer three months ago. His uncle also died less than two weeks ago, but he keeps on smiling. “That’s life. My son is everything to me now. This statue came at a time when I was most troubled, and it has motivated me,” he says.
All say ‘That’s a man who is worthy of a statue’
As for the story of how the statue was created, it was not an easy task. The idea popped up when Güner Yener, a sculptor who has a workshop in the neighborhood, and restaurant owner İdris Yüce were chatting over tea. “There used to be a statue in Beş Çeşmeler Square. It was an example of abstract art, and locals complained that they didn’t understand it. The municipality took it away almost 10 years ago. I had long thought about making a sculpture for that square. While I was talking with İdris, he asked me to make a ‘proper’ sculpture. I said I would make it for free but it should be a sculpture that would send a message to public and they should like it. Then İdris said: ‘That’s a man who is worthy of a statue. Make a sculpture of him,’ pointing to Ceran, who was sweeping the square at the time. I liked that idea very much. A worker’s statue was to be erected, which was completely in compliance with my worldview in praise of labor. So I rolled up my sleeves,” says Yener.
The sculptor says they talked to all of the neighborhood’s residents and told them about their plan and that everybody supported the idea. “I had 15 days to make the sculpture since we wanted to complete it by Oct. 29, Republic Day, when locals here also celebrate returning to Turkey in the same year as the foundation of the Turkish Republic. I worked day and night for 15 days in my workshop with the assistance of my student volunteers. The biggest challenge for me was to find Gazi in order to measure the length of his shoulders and back,” the sculptor says. Stressing that he did not receive any financial assistance from anyone, including the municipality, Yener says this labor was voluntary. “We just wanted to show our gratitude for Gazi. We erected the statue during the night of Oct. 28 and called everyone, including Gazi and the Maltepe mayor, Mustafa Zengin, for the unveiling ceremony,” he says.
When Yüce and Yener told Ceran that they planned to erect his statue, he says he could not mention it to anyone, even his son. “Only the locals here knew about it. When Güner Bey called me on the night of Oct. 28 and told me the sculpture was ready and that an unveiling ceremony would be held the next day, I thought I should tell my son and my relatives,” Ceran says. The statue was unveiled on Oct. 29 with the mayor, the locals of Yalı and Ceran’s relatives in attendance.
As Yener says, he asked for the mayor’s permission to unveil the statue and requested that Ceran cut the ribbon, and the mayor agreed. “Gazi deserved this. There are lots of people like Gazi. He is a symbol for all of them. The public’s perception of the art of sculpture is limited to statues of [founder of Turkish Republic] Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey. He is our leader, that’s OK. However, the art of sculpture doesn’t mean only that. Ours gives a message about the importance of expressing your gratitude to those who deserve it, even if they are alive,” Yener says. Noting that the mayor complained, asking them why they failed to let him know about the project beforehand as the municipality could have helped, Yener says they did not want to bother the municipality but they now expect the municipality to protect the statue. Ceran says the day the statue was unveiled was one of the happiest days of his life, his eyes still filling with tears. “Our mayor also attended the ceremony. I saw my son crying during the ceremony. You cannot imagine what kind of a feeling it is to be honored in such a way when you are alive. I love my job, but now I love it much more. It has been a kind of motivation for me,” he says.
Yüce, one of the architects of the idea for the sculpture, says Ceran deserves more than a statue. “The statue of a man who works hard and makes the best of his job is worth being erected. Everybody in the neighborhood loves Gazi. He smiles at everyone. He helps the elderly while they are trying to throw away their litter. I hear locals inviting Gazi for a tea or breakfast but he kindly refuses, saying he has to work. Although he has experienced tough times in his personal life, he hasn’t let it affect his work. He is among few people in Turkey who deserves every kuruş of his salary,” Yüce says.
Resource: Today’s Zaman