Updated: Aug 21
See how the roses burn! Bring wine to quench the fire!
Last year today, Flying Carpet Festival flew over many cities, villages, and the most magical and romantic places around the Turkish/Syrian border and across the Mesopotamian region. This year the festival is canceled and all the artists involved are quarantined in their homes. The feeling is heavy and frankly depressing but the images of the festival appear once in a while in my own mind and on my social media, and it reminds myself that this is surely temporary and once again the full experiences and pains of life will return to me, The pain of solitude lingers on but it seems like that it is in fact only through pain that we all evolve as a human
My child, Flying Carpet Festival, is an artist-residency and a collaboration between me and the international NGO, Sirkhane (House of Circus), a school of social circus near the Turkish/Syrian border where millions of vulnerable and refugee children escaping from the Syrian war and poverty are resettled. Every year, the Flying Carpet Children Festival gathers and hosts around 30-40 composers, performers, circus artists, dancers, multidisciplinary artists, and designers from all around the world in order to create the most magical experience possible through a two-week residency in the city of Mardin. The collective performs in cities and remote villages in southeast Turkey, where cultural and educational opportunities for children are scarce.
Today I still cannot fully grasp and accurately describe my feeling during the last two years. An overwhelming feeling that one needs many years to fully gradually perceive and digest. It appears that creating a festival in a war zone is more difficult than I imagined. You need to create a major cultural shift in the local community in order to create something global for a small community near the border. I went through periods darkness myself, recovered from it, and went inside it and recovered from it again over and over again. I feel this struggle inside exists and will continue to exist until the end of my life. But I can tell you when beauty is presented in societies which are in dire need of it, as a participating artist you will certainly experience something extraordinary and almost spiritual that you might have never experienced before in your artistic life. That is all I can say about it!
The original idea of the festival came from my inner feelings towards the divided and polarized political dialogue that the United States, my second home is going through. The festival was a turning point for me to try to look more inside rather than outside. The current political and social climate of the world and the United States sucks individuality out of the humans' souls and entangles them into melting in some sort of political identity and losing the nuances of what makes them human in the first place.
This war is also a result of modern human's inability to simply distinguish between good and evil, between greed for more power and obtaining your right, and between inner search and refraining from social responsibilities. What if this incredible power of greed inside every one of us, from any background or ethnicity, would have been directed towards an “actual” need of our global village? Aren't we all after all the fruits of the same tree?
We thought of how about creating an example of what we have in mind. For example, how about gathering artists of all origins and unite them over a humanistic cause, so they will be able to contribute to someone in need while being inspired by this encounter. So every side of this collaboration takes "something" with them back home. We were not there to educate classically but to encourage creativity and being different and weird of any form where you never imagine creativity would be appreciated.
Our festival team comes from the most diverse backgrounds imaginable, and we all agreed on one thing and one thing. That we need to accomplish this project! We have to keep the light now for as long as we can. Thanks to my true love, friend, and mentor Pinar Demiral and her House of Circus (Sirkhane) who lit up the fire of hope for children and all of us, and created this holy platform in the first place, by investing every part of her being into it. This provided a chance for all of us to return to our roots, find our guardian angels, and visit the soil that all our ancestors from around the world came from. Those who were invited found their ways into this holy place in the world and discovered its beauty.
I can never forget the love that Kristine Arth put into the festival's website, graphic design, and its brand identity and how she empowered me at any point to be wild and follow my heart no matter where it takes me.
Soheila Bajelan is the first artist of this collective and the person who encouraged me to continue this by her utmost dedication and selfless love. She brought her whole team of puppeteers from Iran every year and helped and facilitated bringing three gigantic puppets from Iran to Turkey. It is fascinating how much effort she put into our joyful silly ideas. The world needs more silliness!
The person who made every performance possible was my friend and fantastic sound engineer, Lincoln Andrews and multimedia artist, Nima Dehghani. They patiently dealt with gigantic issues on the field and passed through them like swimming in a wild river.
I shall mention my teacher and loved friend, and once-in-a-century composer, Aleksandra Vrebalov, who overheard me talking about the festival and immediately wanted to be part of this journey and has accompanied me in my heart and mind since our friendship was born.
My love and extreme respect for my teachers and friends, Luciano Chessa, Mamak Khadem, Layale Chaker my lovely friends Abigail Shiman, Helen Newby, Avideh Saadatpajouh, Yassi Pishvai, Elena Akopova, Ben Opie, Hatiye Garip, Circo no Ato, Joana Fijó, Kasia Kugay, Saif Altaee, Collin Edouard, Jamie Balfour-Paul, Ladan Mehranzadeh, Vafa Aminikia, Sanaz Eshaghi, Mobin Farhoodi, Aski Kusakcioglu, Mohanna Moslemi, Farhood Yazdani, Anita Bienbl, Stephen Braitsch, Ceren Oran, Elinor Speirs, Alexis Paul, Tobias Pocksteiner, Mucahit Poyraz, Halil Tan, Ozgur Mert, Burju Tilmaz, Gizem Yanar, Sanam Orli, Damla Ozcelik, Serbest Salih, Ameen Mokdad Salim, Karam Al Zouhir, David Rimelis, Bengü Kovar, and local artists, Museum of Mardin and my magical friends at Her Yerde Sanat and MANY MANY other artists and friends who contributed to this event.
But after all these names, the people whose names we do not hear from often are the CHILDREN and Circus Heroes from war, darkness, and terrifying events who taught us that we need to be stronger living our lives. They dealt with the night and are conquering it every single day! Our flying carpet didn't fly in 2020 due to obvious reasons but we hope that children will remember us until we will join them again for 2021.
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