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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY

The increasing rate of urban migration from villages to cities in Turkey, particularly during the last quarter of the 20th century, has swept aside the customs and traditions of centuries. The process of radical change can be observed everywhere, from architecture to clothing and artefacts to the habits of daily life. Traditional crafts have either disappeared or altered beyond recognition. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts launched plans to establish an ethnographic collection in the 1970s, aware that collecting articles of all kinds used in daily life should begin before it was too late. The Ethnographic Section could not be opened to the public, however, until 1983, when the museum moved to Ibrahim Pasa Palace and room became available to exhibit the collection.

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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY

Ethnographic items gathered from many parts of Turkey are today exhibited in tableaux that illustrate the ways of life to which they belong. Visitors are introduced to nomadic, village and town life, together with carpet and kilim looms, the materials used to make natural dyes and the techniques employed, examples of woven artefacts and embroidery, costumes, household articles, handcrafts, nomadic tents, harnesses and much more. A tent of the type known as topakev, which could still be seen until recent years in the district of Emirdag in Afyon, and were used for over a thousand years by both Turks and Mongols, is among the exhibits. Such domed tents made of felt over a wooden frame were waterproof, warm in winter and cool in summer. The frame consists of a circular ring supporting the dome, a central post on which it rests, and the derim or drum-shaped section which is constructed to collapse with a scissor action for easy transportation.

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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY
Felt walls in four or more sections encircle the tent, and these are folded back to allow access through the door. Another type of tent exhibited in the museum is a kara çadir woven from goat hair. Like the topakev, this tent is also waterproof. It was purchased from the Saçikara clan of Türkmen nomads who until recently continued their nomadic lifestyle in the Toros Mountains of southern Turkey. Such tents are still woven today, both by women and by male tent weavers known as mutaf. The walls of the tent are attached by wooden pegs to the roof, and a rush mat known as dolak or dolama is hung up as a windbreak and to keep out dust. Animals like mice and lizards are kept out, because they cannot get a footing on the long hairs of the woven walls.
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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY

All the famly'sg possessions are kept in sacks woven with lengthwise patterns which double as cushions against which guests can lean their backs. The kilims on the floor of the tent are in designs typical of those woven by the Saçikara clan. Carpets, kilims and other types of flatweaves have their origin in pastoral nomadic cultures, and go back thousands of years. Local plants are used as a source of natural dyes, and the motifs and compositions have their roots in very ancient times. Village life is illustrated by the main room removed from a house in the district of Yuntdag in Manisa. The house, which was built of stone, wood and adobe, had been abandoned and was derelict.

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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY
After careful measurement, the room was dismantled, together with its carved wooden door, window frame, cupboards and fireplace, and reconstructed in the museum. The large cupboard has different sections for mattresses and bedding, a wooden chest and two large water jugs. On the left-hand side of the cupboard is a small washroom. Ottoman town life is represented by a reconstruction of a room in Bursa, complete with curtains, a divan with embroidered velvet cover, bracket table with mirror, brazier, and fitted cupboard with painted decoration. The room contains numerous household articles of the period, such as an embroidery frame. The Ottoman capital city of Istanbul was the city where westernisation exerted the greatest influence on lifestyle, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards. In the reconstruction of an Istanbul house, furniture of a western type replaces floor cushions and divans. The clothing of this period exhibited here is also distinctly westernised in character.
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Reflections of the past
2002 / FEBRUARY

The Turkish Coffee House looking out onto the courtyard is a part of the museusar Ethnographic Section. Here are displayed all the original trappings of a traditional coffee house, which was an institution that played an important role in Turkish social life for centuries. To round off your visit to this fascinating museum, stop by here to enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee to the accompaniment of birds singing in the trees and surrounded by the ancient buildings of the 16th century palace.

* Sebahat Gül is curator of the Ethnographic Section of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

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