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REF NO.: 193
SUBJECT: Poppies bring old adversaries together
DATE: July 24
Poppies are abloom at Memorial University this summer, as the QEII Library prepares to host an art exhibit featuring the work of Turkish artist Hikmet Çetinkaya.
The exhibit, titled From Hostility to Friendship 1915-2015: Remembering the Fallen Soldiers in Gallipoli with Poppies, features 20 paintings exclusively depicting the poppy, which is a prominent international symbol of remembrance honouring those who sacrificed so much for their country. The Republic of Turkey’s embassy in Ottawa generously arranged to bring the paintings to the university.
The exhibit coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War and is part of a series of events planned for the coming months to remember the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s role in the campaign. Commemorations will also include a public symposium and a Gallipoli-themed Ceremony of Remembrance in November.
In September 1915, eight-and-a-half months before the tragic events at Beaumont Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment was deployed to the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Ottoman Empire, now modern-day Turkey. The campaign had been ongoing since April with little progress, but with great loss of life. By the time the Allied forces withdrew in January 1916, they had suffered more than 200,000 causalities, with similar numbers among the Turkish troops. The Newfoundland Regiment, which originally landed 1,076 men, was reduced to 487 troops. The regiment was the only unit from North America to participate in the campaign.
“For all the nations involved, the Gallipoli campaign was to be a costly endeavour that ultimately proved to be futile,” said Dr. Luke Ashworth, chair of the WW100 steering committee. “One hundred years later, citizens from nations that were once combatants now gather to commemorate through art all soldiers who served at Gallipoli. The evocative and moving paintings of poppies by Mr. Çetinkaya transcend language barriers. They provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the experiences shared by all combatants and to recognize the peace that makes this exhibition possible.”
Some of the works in the exhibit are still available for purchase. Two of the paintings are already spoken for, as Mr. Çetinkaya generously donated the largest painting in the series to Government House, and the second largest to Memorial University at the reception hosted by the Lieutenant-Governor on Memorial Day. Partial proceeds from sales of the remainder of the paintings will be donated by the artist to the university.
Born in Turkey in 1958, Mr. Çetinkaya has been a visual artist for many years and has established a studio to teach and encourage students. Since 2001, his works have been shown in numerous national and international exhibitions, in addition to 30 international and 109 national workshops. His paintings are on display throughout the world, including the presidential palace of the Republic of Turkey, Turkish embassies, a museum in Austria and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
“My poppies symbolize our mutual pain and suffering, the sadness in our lives and unforgettable memories,” said Mr. Çetinkaya. “It is my great pleasure to donate my artworks, poppy paintings, on behalf of Turkey and the Turkish people to Newfoundland and Labrador where we have friends, and to share them with the people of St. John’s. I look forward to sharing my work this evening.”
The grand opening of the exhibition will take place 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24, in the First Space Gallery on the main floor of the QEII Library and will run until Sept. 15.
Q&A with the artist
(Translation provided by Candemir Cigsar, PhD, Department of Mathematics & Statistics)
Q. Why does your art focus on poppies?
A. Why poppies? The poppy is like human life. It has its past, has lived. It has its present, it lives. But its future is not clear, unknown. It has no tomorrow. Everything is actually today. The best time is the present time. We should enjoy breathing, being able to eat, walking, seeing, waking up with excitement after a restful sleep,
because tomorrow is unknown, we might not be the same tomorrow. Everything has an end and all these might also end, even tomorrow. What will be our last meal, the last dress we will wear, who will be the last person we will look at? We do not know. Let us be aware of the richness that we have at this moment, before all comes to an end. Somehow, we understand the value of one of our belongings, or a part of our body or a loved one, only when we lose them. It is important to comprehend the value and the importance of anything while we still have it.
The poppy represents understanding the value and magnitude of the things we have. It means not to forget, but to remember and love. The poppy means being pure at heart. It means seeing the beautiful.
The poppy is knowing the value and the importance of the moment we are living.
Q. Why did you donate art to the university and the Lieutenant-Governor?
A. Çanakkale / Gallipoli is a battle where, despite many lives lost, humanity survived. It has been a battleground where 250,000 were martyred and 6,000 bullets shot per square metre. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s tribute to the mothers of the fallen in Gallipoli still echoes in our minds:
"Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they become our sons as well."
Did you know that the brightest, the most red and beautiful poppies in Turkey blooms in Gallipoli? And do you know why? Because the poppies of Gallipoli were shed with the blood of Johnnies who lie side by side with Mehmets.
My poppies symbolize our mutual pain and suffering, the sadness in our lives and unforgettable memories. It is my great pleasure to donate my artworks, poppy paintings, on behalf of Turkey and the Turkish people to Newfoundland and Labrador where we have our friends, to share them with the people of St. John’s and to present them to His Honour Frank F. Fagan, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the esteemed Memorial University.
Q. What was your first impression of Newfoundland and Labrador?
A. I was honoured as an artist to lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in St. John’s this year as we commemorate the centenary of Çanakkale Battles, together with H.E. Selçuk Ünal, Turkish Ambassador to Canada, who was representing Turkey for the first time at the commemoration ceremony in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We succeeded in turning the tragedies of this war into a friendship among all those nations who never forget the past, but embrace the future for peace. In the face of today's conflicts, we believe that this message of peace from Gallipoli is even more important.
Newfoundland and Labrador, and St. John’s in particular, has a special meaning in my artistic life. It will always have a beautiful place in my heart with its beautiful nature as well as the warmth, sincerity and hospitality of its people.
I would like to organize joint events and projects with fellow artists from St. John’s, we should use the power of art to build peace in the world.
I would like to thank to His Honour Lieutenant Governor Frank F. Fagan, president of Memorial University Dr. Gary Kachanoski, H.E. Ambassador Selçuk Ünal, my friends Drs. Yildiz and Candemir Cigsar, and to all who have contributed to bringing my artworks here and the opening of my exhibition.
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