Children of Harran to Akkus

Their faces begin where the light touches Anatolia. While you pursue light and shade, you suddenly notice a tiny hand waving by the side of the road, holding out a fish caught in a river, an apple picked from a tree, or a bunch of wildflowers gathered from a meadow. You are not aware, as a passing stranger, what hopes you symbolize in their world. They can only dream about leaving the place where they were born and traveling afar. They are never annoyed by the clouds of dust your car showers over them because they cannot imagine a world where children might show anger towards adults. Onat Kutlar  compares them to snowdrops. When we place the photographs side by side, we seem to see our future. The genes of their ancestors, fathers, and mothers have been shaped by the region where they live to reflect in their faces so that you would recognize them anywhere: in a field of sunflowers, in a ruined windmill, or beneath a roof on which birds perch. Usually, after looking at you curiously, they smile. If they take to you, they follow wherever you go.


Sometimes they cry, but without trying to hide their tears. They could not conceal them if they wanted to because pride does not control their hearts. Their ruler is love, and they do not miss the smallest spark of affection in your eyes.


One day at Harran Castle in southeastern Anatolia, I can never forget how the late afternoon sun lit up the face of one of them, a dark-skinned girl. As I hurriedly set up my tripod, she fled in alarm. Who knows what fear prompted her. But a while later, she returned with her friends, and just as the moon god Sin prepared to usher in the night, she stood in the ray of light in her red dress. This was a miracle of light created by the Mesopotamian sun and a child together. That night before dropping off to sleep in one of the traditional Harran houses with their conical brick domes, I reflected that it had been a scene out of an Eastern fairytale.


One day in Mardin, in front of Medrese Mosque, admiring the portal's wonderful stone carving, you might meet one of them too.


Their speech is murmured as if reciting a prayer. After posing for a photograph, the child will ask you if he can bring his younger brother and return carrying in his arms a small child with hair bleached golden by the sun.


If you visit Cukurova during the cotton harvest, go out into the fields which stretch from Adana to Antakya before dawn. There you will see the children picking cotton alongside the adults. They work by the light of paraffin lamps so that the work of the day is over before the scorching summer sun forces everyone to seek shade. At Kirikhan, do not be surprised if they smile at you in the cotton whiteness, forgetting their blistered hands. Who knows how many were born in these fields, and their umbilical cords severed on this fertile soil? Between November and April in Silifke, the Sarikecili nomads come down to the Mediterranean shores to spend the winter in their tents. In spring, if you see children’s heads amidst the flocks of goats, you will know that they are pursuing a young kid who has found his feet for the first time.


When they tire of this, they go and sit in the laps of their grandmothers, who are busy knitting socks. Traveling further westwards past the Maiden’s Castle and Antalya, you eventually reach Kekova, where you will see not only the Lycian tomb stranded in the sea, the sunken city, and the picturesque village of Ucagiz but also children. You realize that they are used to tourists from the insistent way they try to sell the lace-edged handkerchiefs made by their mothers. When you look at their salt-washed skins and the island-studded sea, you wonder if perhaps this place was once inhabited by mermaids. Only flying fish leaping from the water interrupt your reveries. When you reach Kas, if you see a blonde child seated at the door of his father’s carpet shop, you may recall a line from one of Edip Cansever’s poems: ‘The sea is the feet of a fair-haired child.’


From the Mediterranean, the ancient Mare Nostrum, you travel up the Aegean coast, that sea of islands.


At Ayvalik, there is an archipelago of 22 islands, one of which is Cunda. Here the street vendors try to press toys into the children’s hands, yet here on the coast, surely shells are the best toys of all?


Eastwards again now to Bursa, wherein an old Ottoman village, children and horses rise at the same time every morning, drink water simultaneously, and gaze into the sky at the same time. On to Cappadocia, the ancient Land of Beautiful Horses, wherein Uchisar, the children will tell you stories about the rock cones. As their words wander back and forth between fantasy and reality, they are their own most credible listeners. In Amasya, they cluster close to the mosques like pigeons. On the alpine pastures of Ispir, close to the glacier-filled summit of Vercenik, they dart out in colorful clothes from amongst the women in their headscarves, startling the very mountains themselves.


At Ikizdere in the Black Sea province of Rize, they pass over bridges carrying grasses, flowers, and branches on the backs and pause to rest on the verges. On the high pasture of Kadirga in Trabzon, they shout with laughter as they play in the mountain mist, yet not forgetting to keep a watchful eye on the grazing herds. In the gardens of Akkus in the province of Ordu, they are as shy as the girl who fled when she realized her photograph was being taken. As Onat Kutlar has said, ‘It is impossible to describe them individually because they are all so alike.’ How true that is! Children are children everywhere.

  • Posted on 3 gennaio, 2021
  • by Administrator