Hand(s) Across the Bosporus
By Jheri St. James
I have posted the soil today with DHL. Sorry again
for the delay.
I have taken soil from under the Bosphorus Bridge
at the European side of Istanbul. Istanbul is the
only city in the world that connects the European
and the Asian continents with a bridge. This bridge
is also a symbol of the cultural connection between
East and West with Turkey being the only Islamic democratic
republic in the world. As all of Istanbul is historically
important throughout world history, all soil here
is crucial actually. But I thought the soil referring
to the bridge has a more modern meaning in the sense
of peace and understanding between the cultures of
East and West.
Attached I send you some pics. If you have further
questions or need more info just let me know. Thank
you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to
your great art project.
Simin (Gurler), Kiziltoprak, Istanbul, Turkey
* * *
so begins another journal entry on the Common Ground 191 website.
Ms. Simin Gurler, who first read about the project in the
online Angel Therapy Newsletter posted by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.,
has chosen the Turkish soil she thought was most important,
put it by hand into the plastic bag, placed the bag into the
small cardboard carton previously sent to her by Gary Simpson,
taken it to the DHL office and returned it to us, including
the Volunteer Information Sheet containing her name, address,
phone, email address and soil source location, date and significance
On its travels, the innocuous carton of dirt, jostling among
the many other much larger and probably much more “valuable”
ones, passed through Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands;
and finally entered the U.S.A. (having received its authorization
from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture), where it traveled to
Wilmington, Ohio, then finally to Hawthorne, California. Gary
drove one hour to Hawthorne, California, picked it up and
brought it back to the studio in Laguna Beach. There, the
soil was removed by hand from the plastic bag, put into the
jar labeled “Turkey” and placed on “The
International Wall of Soils” beneath its own flag.
With this sample, another piece of our Abstract Expressionist
“patchwork quilt” is in place. Every step of the
process is monitored as carefully as if the contents were
gold, not dirt. And there are always the uncertainties as
to whether a collector will follow through on the initial
contact, even after the carton was prepaid and shipped overseas;
which was the earlier case with the Turkish collection.
photo of the wall was taken before any of the jars were filled.
At this writing, there is soil in about 80 of the 191 jars,
ready for the fresco—the 50’ by 50’ installation
containing all the soils combined with colors, metals and
other artistic additives. The project was initiated on September
11, 2001, and the impetus continues to grow, thanks to efficient
international shipping, the internet, and “Earth Angels”
like all our previous collectors, Doreen Virtue and her readers,
and people like Simin Gurler. As in Turkey, we say “tesekkur”
in thanks and appreciation.
* * *
Republic of Turkey has a magnificent past and is a land full
of historic treasures from 13 successive civilizations spanning
10,000 years. It is located in the Eastern Mediterranean on
two continents, Europe and Asia. The European part of Turkey
is called Thrace and the Asian part is called Anatolia or
Asia Minor. Anatolia was the cradle of ancient civilizations,
dating back to at least 7000 B.C. Its famous sites include
Troy, Ephesus, and the Hittite capital of Hattasus. Turkey
was, successively, part of the Hittite, Persian, Roman, Seljuk,
and Ottoman empires. Its western coast was for a time the
site of the some of the most brilliant city-states of the
ancient Greeks, including Halicarnassus and Miletus. The Ottoman
Empire, with its center in Turkey, was founded in the 13th
century and endured until it was formally dissolved after
World War I, many centuries.
Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants
of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa Kemal,
who later was honored with the title Ataturk or “Father
of the Turks”. Under his leadership, the country adopted
wide-ranging social, legal and political reforms, ranging
from changing the alphabet to emancipating women. After a
period of one-party rule, an experiment with multi-party politics
led to the 1950 election victory of the opposition Democratic
Party and the peaceful transfer of power. Since then, Turkish
political parties have multiplied, but democracy has been
fractured by periods of instability and intermittent military
coups (1960, 1971, 1980), which in each case eventually resulted
in a return of political power to civilians. In 1997, the
military again helped engineer the ousting of the then Islamic-oriented
government. Turkey military intervened on Cyprus in 1974 to
prevent a Greek takeover of the island and has since acted
as patron state to the “Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus,” which only Turkey recognizes. A separatist
insurgency begun in 1984 by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK)—now known as the People’s Congress of Kurdistan
or Kongra-Gel (KGK)—has dominated the Turkish military’s
attention and claimed more than 30,000 lives, but after the
capture of the group’s leader in 1999, the insurgents
largely withdrew from Turkey, mainly to northern Iraq. In
2004, KGK announced an end to its ceasefire and attacks attributed
to the KGK increased. Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and in
1952 it became a member of NATO. In 1964, Turkey became an
associate member of the European Community. Over the past
decade, it has undertaken many reforms to strengthen its democracy
and economy, enabling it to begin accession membership talks
with the European Union.
is located in southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia (that
portion of Turkey west of the Bosporus is geographically part
of Europe), bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and
Georgia, and bordering the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean
Sea between Greece and Syria. There are seven main geographical
regions in Turkey, the first four of which are given the names
of the seas adjacent to them: Black Sea, Marmara, Aegean and
Mediterranean. The other three regions are named in accordance
with their location in the whole of Anatolia: Central, Eastern
and Southeastern Anatolia. Asian Turkey is mountainous inland
and has an extensive semiarid plateau giving way to narrow
coastal lowlands. Mt. Ararat, at 16,945 ft. is Turkey’s
highest peak, and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise in
the east. Earthquakes are frequent. European Turkey, which
is actually eastern Thrace, is fertile hill country and the
site of the city of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. The
climate is Mediterranean around the coastal lowlands and the
European section, but drier and subject to greater extremes
inland on the Asian side, with harsh winters toward the northeast.
Turkey’s strategic location controls the Turkish Straits
(Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link the Black
and Aegean Seas; Mount Ararat, the legendary landing place
of Noah’s Ark, is in the far eastern portion of the
up to a height of 5,165 m, Mt. Agri is the main peak of Turkey,
and the symbol of the city of Agri. This snowcapped volcano
is the famous biblical Mt. Ararat, the legendary site of the
second beginning of the world. It is believed that Noah’s
Ark came to rest in the mountains of eastern Turkey, and the
wide plain of Igdir at the foot of the mountain is the first
place where Noah set foot after the disaster. A geological
hollow near Uzungil village has the shape allegedly of the
ark, and it is a place often visited by tourists as a resting
spot. A dessert Asure is served in the region, known as “Noah’s
Pudding.” The name Ararat as it appears in the Bible
is the Hebrew equivalent of Urardhu or Urartu, the Assyro-Babylonian
name of a kingdom that flourished between the Aras and the
Upper Tigris rivers from the 9th to the 7th century BC. Ararat
is sacred to the Armenians, who believe themselves to be the
first race of humans to appear in the world after the Deluge.
A Persian legend refers to Ararat as the cradle of the human
* * *
shape of Turkey on a topographical map somewhat loosely resembles
a hand, reaching from Asia to Europe, with the Bosphorus outlining
the thumb. Turkey has given much and Turkey has taken much.
Countless cultural gifts of Ottoman-dominated regions were
given to the world—art, music, architecture, and literature,
to name just a few. And many lives were taken by Turkish militarism.
What’s not destroy’d by Time’s
Where’s Troy, and where’s the Maypole in the
(Rev. James Bramston 1694-1744).
* * *
grasp and pick things up—cups of coffee, tea, or playing
cards. In Turkey, traditional fortune tellers use coffee,
tea, tarot cards, playing cards, or even computers as divining
tools for interpreting dreams, making contact with supernatural
beings, reading others’ thoughts, influencing another’s
faith, destiny and luck, and making wishes. The website www.kulturturizm.gov.tr
lists many traditional and popular Turkish practices such
as blessings, curses, spells, spirits and other beliefs common
in Turkish culture.
example, the Hand of Fatima protects people from the Evil Eye.
Throughout northern Africa, Turkey and in
other parts of the Middle East, Muslims wear the necklac and “Hand
of Fatima” as jewelry and for superstitious
Fatima was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammad, who married
Ali, the nephew of the Prophet. From their descendents,
Shi’a Muslims claim a direct line of authority over
Muslims. Miracles were attributed to Fatima, such as when
she prayed in the desert, it started raining. She is described
as a faithful, holy woman. One day Lady Fatima was cooking
halvah (sesame seed candy) in a pan in the garden when
suddenly the door opened and her husband, the caliph Ali,
entered along with the new bride (Islam allows a man four
wives), a concubine (slave-girl). She was deeply grieved
and in confusion dropped the wooden spoon from her hand.
Unaware, she continued stirring the halvah with her hand.
Because of the grief in her heart she never even felt
the pain of her hand mixing the hot halvah. However, when
her husband hurried to her side and exclaimed in surprise,
“What are you doing there, Fatima?” she felt
her hand burning and the pain. Thus it is from that day
on the hand of the Lady Fatima has been used by girls
and women in the Islamic world as a symbol of patience,
abundance, luck and faithfulness.
| Next Ali as the
groom and his new bride go into their wedding room. The
house is wooden, and Fatima cannot stop herself
from looking through a tiny little hole of a room on the
second floor. And when Ali leans over the bride, from that
tiny hole, Fatima’s tear drops onto his shoulder, which
stops him. So the evil eye amulet of Fatima, popular in Islamic
countries, is formed of glass shaped into a teardrop. This
icon is seen on many types of jewelry.
There is much right hand/left hand
magic in Turkey. The left hand is for doing bad things; it
also protects against
the evil eye if you put it palm up in front of you, so that’s
an insulting thing to do to someone, implying they have the evil
eye. These hand gestures have been around since before Islam.
many spells involve reading extracts from the Koran, magic
is prohibited in Islam. Still spells are cast to bring rain,
or people draw circles around the places they live and accompany
this with prayers in the belief that the circle will act as
a wall to protect them from wild animals. There are black
and white spells; white for beneficial results; black for
evil. In Turkey, spells are used to make a man more attached
to his family or to moderate his behavior in some way, to
make someone love someone else, to find an object which has
been lost, to defeat the enemy.
have existed since the earliest days of mankind. Although
they may sometimes appear illogical or unreasonable, superstitions
are still an integral part of Turkish peoples’ hearts,
brains and minds.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism website continues: “Curses
are an essential component of everyday life, and an important
element of popular wisdom. The anger, wrath, rancor or hopeless
resistance felt by the old towards the young, the young to
the old, or the infuriated towards each other are all reflected
in these sayings. They are free of nonessentials, natural
and quite transparent . . . a mixture of hope and despair,
fear and joy, anger and regret.
In addition, there are many superstitious gestures and rituals
surrounding the most important moments of human life—birth,
circumcision, marriage and death. If a pregnant woman eats
bitter food, she will give birth to a girl; sweet food and
liquids raise chances of having a boy . . . She is expected
to: look at the moon and beautiful people, smell roses and
eat quinces, apples, green plums and grapes. The birth of
the child is a time of many other cautionary tenets. After
cutting the baby’s fingernails for the first time, his
hands are put in a sack full of money. If a boy, the money
he takes from the sack is used for the capital of the business
he will later set up; if a girl, the money she takes is kept
as money for her dowry. The evil eye comes up again in regard
to children, who are deliberately paraded around dirty, have
a spell read over them by someone who is believed to have
healing power, or are taken to places of pilgrimage as forms
of protection from this malefic orb.
hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Ross Wallace d. 1881
the architects of Turkey, whose hands designed and built the
bridge across the Bosporus, the narrow strait separating European
and Asian Turkey and joining the Black Sea with the Sea of
Marmara using curses and superstitions to build this important
link between waterways and continents? If so, the end result
is surely a blessing, not a curse. Today’s modern Turkish
economy is a complex mix of modern industry and commerce,
along with a traditional agriculture sector that in 2004 still
accounted for more than 34 percent of employment. It has a
strong and rapidly growing private sector, yet the state still
plays a major role in basic industry, banking, transport and
communication. The largest industrial sector is textiles and
clothing, which accounts for one-third of industrial employment;
it faces stiff competition in international markets with the
end of the global quota system.
possesses a wide range of clothing. Turkish hands make clothing
and jewelry, which signify class, social and economic structure
of the wearer. Clothes indicate whether societies are settled
or nomadic, and are a source of information about historical
events and ethnological origins. Daily, work and special day
clothes are different. In the markets, it is easy to identify
in which village one lives by clothing. Men who leave their
villages to do military service or to take up employment adapt
to city culture in their garb. In rural areas, women generally
have little contact with the outside world and dress in conformity
with lifestyle and traditions of the community of which they
are part. The concept of the evil eye is widespread in this
area as well, and one can observe many amulets to ward it
off in peoples’ clothes and hair.
automotive and electronics industry sectors are rising in
importance within Turkey’s export mix. Real GNP growth
has exceeded 6% in many years, but this strong expansion has
been interrupted by sharp declines in output in 1994, 1999
and 2001. The economy is turning around with the implementation
of economic reforms, and 2004 GDP growth reached 9%. Inflation
fell to 7.7% in 2005—a 30-year low. Despite these strong
economic gains in 2002-2005, which were largely due to renewed
investor interest in emerging markets, IMF backing, and tighter
fiscal policy, the Turkish economy is still burdened by a
high current account deficit and high debt. The public sector
fiscal deficit exceeds 6% of GDP—due in large part to
high interest payments, which accounted for about 37% of central
government spending in 2004. Prior to 2005, foreign direct
investment (FDI) in Turkey averaged less than $1 billion annually
but further economic and judicial reforms and prospective
EU membership are expected to boost FDI.
from the Romany Folk Culture Photography Exhibition – Gypsies
using their hands as pictured in 2000.
hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of death and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.
hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.
So many hands working together,
the hands of strangers—many
miles apart—to create a dream: hands typed the online newsletter,
other hands filled out the volunteer information form. Hands
picked up the soil, shipped and received it. (Tesekkur, friends!)
Hands bless and curse, strike out and soothe; hands built an
ark which carried hooves, claws, and paws and Common Ground 191 is a bridge to that dream. Each human being has two
hands, symbolic of the ambivalence of human life, made up of
so much that is good and evil. Turkish history and culture are
so ancient, so vast, and so beautiful; they are nearly incomprehensible.
Turkey is after all in two geographical parts, and lives within
a mixture of modern life and ancient practices. The hands that
write this journal entry extend from one person with a human
dream, composed of the highest aspirations of mankind. Common
Ground 191 is part of that dream. The word for peace in Turkey
eye of man hath not heard,
the ear of man hath not seen,
man’s hand is not able to taste,
his tongue to conceive,
nor his heart to report,
what my dream was.
Much Ado About Nothing.
Simin asked us to include the following list
of Facts About Turkey, and we are very happy to accommodate
her wishes to enlighten the world about her country.
FACTS ABOUT TURKEY
DID YOU KNOW THAT...
has been the homeland of the Hattis, Hittites, Assyrians,
Urartans, Phyrigians, Lydians, Persians, Trojans, Ionians,
Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans.
the fabled ‘land between the rivers’ Tigris and
Euphrates lies in southeast Turkey.
the third largest city in Turkey on the Agean coast is the
birthplace of Homer.
legend of Chimera, the fire-breathing monster and Bellerophon
took place in Antalya.
was turned into a bay tree by Zeus to escape the amorous advances
of Apollo in the Mediterranean region near Antalya.
Anthony once gave part of Turkey’s southern shore in
Antalya and Side (Turkish Riviera) to Cleopatra as a wedding
Virgin Mary is believed to have spent the last days of her
life in a chapel near Selcuk (Ephesus).
Paul who came from Tarsus preached in the great theatre in
Ephesus and traveled and lived around Turkey for years.
Nicholas (Santa Claus) once lived in Demre (Myra), south of
Turkey, and is burried here.
the 13th Century Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, a mystic poet whose
tolerance and humanity were quite exceptional for his age,
founded the Whirling Dervishes in Konya, central Turkey.
Emre a Turkish humanist and a contemporary of Mevlana, much
like his European successors Erasmus and Martin Luther, sought
to modify man’s traditional concept of himself and the
the greatest of all Ottoman architects was a worthy rival
of his near contemporary Michelangelo.
thousand different species of plants grow in Turkey and 3000
of these grow only in Turkey and nowhere else in the world.
In the 16th century, Busbecq the Ambassador in Istanbul of
the Habsburg Emperor first introduced the tulip to Europe
Christi’s famous story ‘Orient Express’
was mainly written in the Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul between
card game Bridge was invented in the 1860’s in Istanbul
and named after the Galata Bridge.
recent movie “Troy” is based on the legendary
tale told by Homer in the Iliad and the real Troy is located
in Turkey on the Dardanelles Straits, the meeting point of
Christian church first took root, grew, developed and spread
throughout the world from Turkey and Turkey is referred to
as the Cradle of Christianity.
of the Old and New Testament stories happened throughout Turkey
and therefore it is often referred to as the "second
the flood, Noah's Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat in Eastern
rainbow first appeared at Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey (Gen.
of the oldest known human cities, Çatal Höyük,
is in Turkey and was the largest and probably the earliest
example of a Neolithic Anatolian village about 9000 years
adopted daughter Sabiha Gökçen was the world’s
first female combat pilot in the 1930’s.
one and a half centuries before the history of flight began
in 1783, the Turkish scientist Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi
(1609-1640) flew across the Bosphorus from the Galata Tower.
the temple of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, is located
opera singer Luciano Pavarotti was originally born in Turkey.
second oldest subway ‘Tunel’ was built by the
French in Istanbul 1875.
horse carriage statues on San Marco square of Venice once
adorned the Emperor’s box on the Hippodrome in Istanbul.
grave of the famous Carthaginian commander Hannibal is located
in the town of Gebze on the northern shores of the Marmara
Gurler, Soil Collector from Turkey