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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY
As we get older where do we seek the gardens of our childhood? Can our memories bring back lullabies, jingling bells of the flocks, games of hide and seek, and strings of kites? How do we revive images of those old markets, wedding suppers, sheep shearing, the face of a young bride looking in the mirror? Is the lark nesting amongst the ears of wheat waiting for us somewhere? Or in migrating from country to city have we paid the price of losing the houses, streets and villages where we were born? If we have lost them, how can we bring them back to life from our memories?
Perhaps you have never asked yourself any of these questions. Perhaps memories of your childhood have slipped beyond even the reach of dreams. But for Ayhan and Nazmiye Çetin their childhood in Akviran, a village in the province of Konya, has not faded. To be more accurate, they have not allowed it to fade. They have been busy producing handmade dolls which tell the story of Akviran from the 1920s onwards.
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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY
Drawing for their creativity on the past, with patience and painstaking attention to detail, they made dolls, each 30 centimetres tall. Then they made houses between 50 and 80 centimetres in height. On the flat roofs they placed women spreading out tarhana to dry; in a garden a bridegroom being shaved ready for his wedding; children playing leapfrog; a traveller with his packhorse climbing a hill. Is this all a feat of their imagination? No, this is exactly as it was when they lived in the village. Even the names of the shops are as they were: Blacksmith Mehmet Ali Usta, Barber Yakup, Grocer Ahmet, Tinsmith Muhittin Usta, and the rest.
This reconstructed village might be naïve, but at the same time it is charming and poignant. This 'house of memories' containing a miniature world is now open to the public. It is not far from Ephesus. All you have to do is go to the crossroads leading to Selçuk, Pamucak, Kusadasi and Seferihisar, and travel 300 metres along the road to Kusadasi. The first thing you see is live sized models in the garden. A woman carries her swaddled baby on her back.
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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY
An old man with a white beard sits upon a jar sipping his coffee. Then you open the door of the one storey building and enter the village of Akviran, inhabited by dolls! There you first notice a familiar face. It is Nasreddin Hoca, the legendary Turkish wit and commentator on human nature whose stories are still being told six or seven centuries later. He is riding his famous donkey, with a crowd of children gathered around him.
A little beyond him nomads descend from the Toros Mountains with their camels loaded with pomegranates, oranges and carobs to barter for wheat from the village before returning to the mountains. A shepherd is herding his goats, while the sheepdogs guard the kids. Hardly any aspect of village life is not brought to life here.
Now it is time to look more closely at the dolls themselves. First the framework of the body is made, then the heads and hands attached, and the body stuffed with paper and cloth.
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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY
String is then wound around the body, and the hair and eyelashes of wool fixed on. This is the job of Ayhan Çetin. His wife Nazmiye dresses them in clothes which are exact replicas of those worn at the time. The houses are made of paper, cardboard, wood and polystyrene foam.

In one of the houses the inhabitants are busy preparing winter provisions. Wheat that has been washed, boiled and dried, is being ground with a hand mill into bulgur. In the village square a peddler is selling printed cottons, flannel dresses, mirrors and hair slides to the women of the village. In one yard a woman is washing the laundry, and in another melted lead is being poured to protect a pretty girl from the evil eye. Tobacco purchased from the tobacconist is being rolled into cigarettes, and a photographer beneath the black cloth of his old-fashioned camera is taking a photograph of his client, who is seated on a wooden chair.
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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY
A young man off to do his national service is taking his leave of friends and family. All the daily tasks and eventful happenings of village life in the early 20th century are here. There is even a bear, named perhaps Balaban or perhaps Kocaoglan, on the back of a man lying in the street! But don't worry, the bear is not trying to kill him only cure his back pains. The bea'st owner stands beside them playing a tambourine, and if only the spell were broken he would certainly start singing. In the village coffeehouse people are drinking their well brewed glasses of tea as they chat to their neighbours. Perhaps they are discussing the wrestling tournament held in the next village. In the nearby fields people are busy harvesting. A man gives water he has drawn from the well to some dappled horses. The miller is busy too, loading sacks of flour onto the donkey of a customer.
In the yard of one cottage some colourful work is going on. I say colourful not in the metaphorical sense, but because wool is being dyed in cauldrons and hung up to dry.
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VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
2001 / JULY

This will be used by the young girls to weave the rugs that will adorn their houses when they are married. To the sound of drum and flute, boys and girls are performing dances of Silifke and the Aegean. They are guest performers, joining in the cheerful life of the village.
So is anything missing in this traditional village which opened its doors last May? Of course there is: the dolls do not talk! But perhaps Ayhan and Nazmiye Çetin will manage that one day.
On the roof of one of the adobe houses you will see a child with a dreamy expression flying his kite. Look carefully at him, because he will grow up to make all these dolls and recreate the village of Akviran. This is no other than Ayhan Çetin himself as a child. l

Text and photos AKGÜN AKOVA*
PRINT PHOTOBANK TURKEY

* Akgün Akova is a freelance writer.

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