Thursday, 28 January 2010

North Cyprus: The people and their homes

I have tried to start this post so many times, Do I explain the history? If I do I feel that a political element creeps in, I decided that was not the direction I wanted this blog to go in.
Sadly this for the moment negates the long but ultimately amazing first hand experience Emin had during the fateful attempted coup in 1974. There are numerous books you can read, but the facts are that the country was divided and remains so although somewhat less so than before.
Northern Cyprus since 1974 does not officially exist, it is not recognised by the international community and has until recently languished unloved, but kept alive by Turkish aid and intervention. So many photographers visit counties like Cuba and India but to my knowledge no one has ever recorded the lives of Northern Cyprus.
I have been many time up to and when Leyla was a baby, but for many reasons we both agreed that I should stop going and arrange my own holidays. Emin continued to visit and would report back on the slow but creeping changes that will start to spoil the peace. Hotels built on deserted beaches, houses where olive groves once stood, it is slow, but it is happening.
Then we decided after last years excessively expensive winter break we should try to have a couple of cheaper years so we can save up for Damascus. So I found my self back and this time I was determined to make a record of life on the Island, specifically the Karpas peninsular where Emin has a house.
It was built by his mother before she tragically died of breast cancer, it is a money pit but it sits on top of the spine of the peninsular away from the manic mainstream, in English his village is called 'hunters mountain top' and it is a rural idly. I initially wanted to focus on the people, but I can tell you it is not easy poking your camera into a strangers face, in the end I spread my net and the following are a small taste of what will appear on Flickr over the following weeks.
I must thank Emin's sister who was a diamond and helped me get many photographs, Leyla too charmed the villagers into letting me take their photographs.

Leyla called her Nene (Turkish for Granny) In actual fact she is Leyla's 'great step nene', This amazing woman was Emin's granddad's second wife, his first was Emin's Nan whom he unceremoniously abandoned. Nene went on to have seven children, she is a really lovely and very funny lady. Just before I took this photograph I had taken Leyla for a walk and we had found and picked some Narcissus, they smelt so divine Leyla gave a bunch to Nene.
I just love the joy she got from the smell.

She was so funny, I laughed every time we met, she was so random and was so typical of the village women who just say it as it is. She often came to visit and was suitably horrified at my lack of Turkish.
The scarf she is wearing defines a Turkish Cypriot woman, The decorative edge and the way it's tied is something only they do. Turkish women tie their scarves very differently. It was this I wanted to record and I managed to get 13 women's portraits.
I really hope I can get more next year. You have very little time to take the photograph and it is very difficult to ask them to move to a more appropriate location, so I often zoomed in, so thank God for my zoom lens.

Emin's neighbours house
I love the complete and utter clash to match, and being close ended up taking numerous photographs, but this was my favourite.

Cansil's House & Garden
Emin has many many cousins and one of my favourites lives here, Cansil is a keen gardener and propagates a lot which is good for Emin as she has supplied him with quite a few fruit trees.

her veranda is always slightly chaotic...

and so is her kitchen, but the minute she caught me taking photographs she ran in and pushed me into her showpiece living room before cleaning the whole lot up, I was so gutted because it was such a great shot and I missed it, so here is the proof that Cansil does sometimes clear up!

Selvrinas's house
Cansil's sister, chalk and cheese they are, this house is so clean you could eat off the floor. She is so house proud and what I really love is the wonderful mix of patterns she has everywhere.

The photographs below were taken on a walk I did with Emin's sister. I love the way they live on their porches. The back yard is primarily for animals and all things mechanical so the front is for drying washing before occasionally sitting down to watch the world go by.

There were lemon tress everywhere.
I am currently rereading Bitter lemons by Laurence Durrell which describes village life just before the British left the island.

More peeking
Just how random is this garden? Are they tree kennels?

These two photographs were taken in Emin's village
as you can see we had glorious weather.

The bread shop
This looks like a typical bread shop, it sits miles from no where yet people from miles around drive to it, much of what we bought from there didn't make it back to the house! we ate the olive bread warm from the oven. The people who run it are really lovely and let us walk round the back to see the bread ovens. What makes this place unique is that it is entirely self sufficient. Despite sitting under a junction of pylons it is fuelled by energy from a wind turbine and photovoltaic cells, trust me this is an amazing step forward, it is not a cheap solution and yet the whole country could do it and leave no carbon footprint.

The men all drive up to small cafes on their tractors and drink and chat. Never ever would you see a woman do this (drink in a bar that is, they all drive tractors) and I struggled to get closer photographs as Emin was always occupied elsewhere and I was afraid they would take offence

We went to the capital city once, I really wanted to photograph the shopkeepers, but his bloody cousin demanded we go back to her flat instead. It was a glorious day and all I got was this passing shot taken from the car window, I could have wept.
If you have got this far well done.
I have lots of landscapes waiting to be sorted.. but they can wait.

1 comment:

materfamilias said...

These are wonderful! Again, I say, you need a gallery show! And this, especially, seems important work, documenting this place from a somehow-intimate outsider's view before it changes forever.