“Looking at the World through the Eyes of a Woman”: the Turkish connection comes to Manhattan Beach
by Vy Nguyen
The phrase “girl power” can be seen circulating throughout social media. Women encourage their friends and family members to find strength amongst themselves, and to not depend on others for happiness. While this encouragement is being circulated locally, there are women who want to pass on this message to those overseas. This month, members of the Turkish Women’s Initiative invite us to attend an art exhibition, titled “Looking at the World through the Eyes of a Woman,” which showcases works from Turkish women. The exhibition is in support of these women who neither attend school nor have a stable job, but continues to maintain a positive outlook about life through their love and devotion for the arts.
The exhibition, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday, is sponsored by the Soroptimist International of Manhattan Beach group, whose name derives from the Latin world “soro” (sister) and “optima” (best), together forming the phrase “Best for Women.” With such an empowering name, it is no wonder that the organization would be supportive of Turkish Women’s Initiative, also known as the TWI.
Helen Block, the president of Soroptimist International of Manhattan Beach and the exhibit sponsor, explains why the work done by the TWI is so important to her organization and why she and the other members continue to support it.
“TWI has developed programs and services to promote leadership, educational opportunities, economic independence and civic engagement, thereby helping girls and women to be active, responsible and productive members of Turkish society. TWI inspires girls and women to have confidence in their own voices, develop their leadership and life skills, and improve their ability to identify and solve problems in their lives, careers and communities.”
In Turkey today, the employment rate for women is steadily starting to increase but most find it nearly impossible to support their household. With the support of the TWI, young girls and women can transform their love for the arts from a simple hobby into a means of inspiration as well as a source of income.
“According to an Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report,” Block says, “52% of Turkish women aged 15-29, neither go to school, nor work. The percentage of Turkish women who work outside of their home has been steadily declining, and at around 25% is one of the lowest in the world. The percentage of university educated women who work has been decreasing and now stands at around 66%. SI Manhattan Beach is one of 1,360 clubs in 19 countries making up Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), one of four Federations making up Soroptimist International. The mission of SIA is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. We feel the mission of TWI so closely resembles our own, we felt compelled to continue a relationship with them.”
By attending the show, audiences are given insight into the Turkish culture. Not only are they supporting the TWI, but through the artworks they can see life through the eyes of these women.
According to the Soroptimist International, the exhibition “emphasiz[es] the identity, creativity, and the work of female artists from Turkey,” and “will present different classical techniques and disciplines together in harmony to create uniqueness. The Artists will display and, during workshops, interactively create with the visitors. Since art remains one of the few uncensored means of expression and communication, this exhibit will give the viewer insight [into] the cultural changes being experienced while trying to preserve century old techniques.”
Unlike other art shows with works from either well known artists or young emerging ones, this particular show focuses on the works of unknown older artists.
The exhibit has art from 28 women artists. Most of these women are over 35, some over 50 years of age. According to Nalan Kumlali, the exhibit director and founder of Kosev Dernek, these women have discovered themselves through their art. Their art has helped them see themselves, their husbands and their environment, in a different perspective. They have seen that there is more to life than being a housewife and mom. In addition, by selling their art, they have started contributing to the family budget. For a number of these women, this will be their first exhibit. For most of them, it’s their first exhibit outside of Turkey.
The SI and TWI believe in female empowerment, but that does not mean that these organizations are exclusive to supporting women alone.
“TWI tailors their programs to consider regional differences,” notes Block. “TWI also engages men, parents, families, and diverse institutions within the larger Turkish community. They believe in grassroots community-based learning that incorporates the arts, sharing best practices, networking and hands-on collaboration. They also believe in the importance of mentoring. TWI’s innovative and sustainable programs are developed in collaboration with its sister organization Degisim Liderleri Dernegi (DLD) in Turkey. DLD is primarily responsible for on-site implementation. DLD is the Turkish equivalent of our US 501(c)(3)a non-profit organization.”
According to Block, viewers will find various mediums of art in the show, including but not limited to oil paintings, photography, drawings, marbling, Turkish tiles, jewelries, and textiles.
“This exhibit will feature canvas art, ceramics, tile work, and jewelry from the Iznik and Kutahya regions of Turkey. The tiles in particular are unique to Turkey. The exhibit will show new modern approaches to art and pieces that reflect centuries old techniques, such as marbling. Edna Sopaci will be giving demonstrations of various ceramic techniques, and for a modest fee the patrons of the exhibit can participate.”
Audiences will see many different works of art by talented artists, and to build anticipation for the show Block talks about what she is most excited to see.
“Fatma Ervin Ozturk, who is an oil painting expert by profession, has developed and patented her own technique of using soil on the canvas and then painting over the soil. She is known in Europe for this unique technique.
“Eda Sopaci, who is a ceramics artist and will be coming here for the exhibit, uses centuries old Anatolian goddess icons and Ottoman motifs in her pieces. This will be her first visit to the USA. When Sema met Eda in her Istanbul studio in September, she asked her many questions about herself and her work. What struck Sema was that she had never looked at herself as a woman ‘artist.’ We believe this exhibit will make her see herself in a different perspective.”
Looking at the World through the Eyes of a Woman takes place this Saturday, Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Manhattan Beach Community Church, 303 S. Peck Ave., M.B. The exhibition is directed by Nalan Kumlali. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Proceeds from the sale and classes will be used to support the Kosey Association, a Turkish non-profit organization. To learn more, go to simanhattanbeach.org/art-exhibit.