Friday, January 20

Aman, Türkiye!

I think that British artist Ned Pamphilon’s idea of painting a giant rainbow on the underside of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge is actually a bit hokey, but I also think that the Turkish government is to be faulted for their opposition to the project. They claim that it would make Istanbul too gay.

The Bosphorus Bridge connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, thus connecting Europe and Asia. Pamphilon’s vision is for the rainbow to be a symbol of peace bridging East and West. Turkey’s president has expressed support for the project, but other members of the Turkish government are less enthusiastic. They don’t see it a peace symbol. Instead, what they see is a gay symbol, which is quite remarkable because Turkey’s gay community, even in Istanbul, is small and not terribly visible. It shows, however, that Istanbul’s homophobic authorities have a good memory. Prior to 1993, Turkey’s principal GLBT liberation group, now called LambdaIstanbul, was known as Gökkuşağı, meaning “rainbow.”

Of course, to be truly gay, Pamphilon’s rainbow would have to leave out the indigo, as the gay rainbow does. It’s close enough, though, for Turkey’s conservatives. It’s kind of a weird situation, because they’re not actually opposing something that is intended as a gay symbol designed to show support for Turkey’s GLBT population per se, but rather are opposing something because they perceive a gay connection. Still, the distinction is pointless because what underlies their reaction is homophobia.

This could be a problem for Turkey as it seeks to meet the requirements set for it in order to gain membership in the European Union, whose parliament passed a joint resolution on Wednesday condemning homophobia and calling on the European Commission to take a more proactive roll in fighting measures meant to discriminate against GLBT people in several EU states, including Poland and Latvia. Membership talks between Turkey and the EU officially began in October 2005 after many weeks of tense negotiations.

One question: Does this mean the Turkish authorities think of men kissing every time a rainbow appears in the sky?

The above image shows an artist’s rendering of the proposed rainbow. Thanks to Will over at DesignerBlog for drawing my attention to the recent EU resolution on homophobia.

3 Comments:

Blogger Will said...

Several years ago a colleague of mine from University of Chicago and I took a student group to Greece and Turkey. We began in Istanbul and I was struck by the beauty and elegance of the Bosphorus Bridge. There are surprisingly few cables supporting the roadway and the span seems almost to be floating by itself from one continent to the other.

The rainbow would be a stunning piece of public art, particularly as any trip to Istanbul should include a lot of time on the water to get a full sense of the city's history and magnificent geographical placement.

7:14 AM  
Blogger kate m said...

When I was in 6th grade, I had a rainbow baseball shirt. I like rainbows and I like baseball. Does this mean I am gay? Does this mean baseball is gay? If there is a rainbow on the Boshphorus bridge, does that mean the bridge is gay? Is engineering gay? Are there gay engineers? If the rainbow touches two continents, does that mean both Europe and Asia are gay? Will only gay people drive over the bridge? I think the Turkish Government has a lot to ponder...

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Ned Pamphilon said...

What a dreadful photograph of me on the original post. Still, there's been even worse. This is Ned Pamphilon typing. My assistant showed me this web page. I really had no intention of gay associations when I first conceived Rainbow Bridge back in 1998/99. There are 7 steel panels spanning the underneath of the Bosphorus Bridge and 7 peaceful rainbow colours just seemed the most practical and obvious solution if one were to paint something. The more I researched the idea the more obvious 7 rainbow colours became.
Quite what "hokey" means I'm not really sure. Will sums it up perfectly: the Bosphorus sea strait is wonderful and the reason I fell in love with Istanbul. As for Kate's amusing comments - absolutely! If God created the rainbow, is God gay too? Oops. Is that blasphemy?!
One day RB will happen because in good old Churchillian tradition I will never never never never never give in. It is going to benefit the Turkish government, they just don't realise it. It will open the imaginations of millions of children. It will make a heap of money for Turkey. The authorities reportedly spent $40,000,000 on an advertising campaign at the end of 2005. German Chemical Company BASF offered to sponsor my project and submitted a budgeted protocol costing €350,000. Rainbow Bridge will reap dividends just because every news agency in the world will cover it; art magazines will feature it; architectural magazines; we can enter to the Guinness Book of Records as the longest artwork between 2 continents; perhaps we can even enter it for The Turner Prize.......the opportunities are endless. Above all it will be fun. They paint it anti-corrosive grey anyway. I'm merely suggesting we change the pigment. Is it so radical?!
The Turkish government are pitching for Istanbul to be the EU Cultural Capital in 2010. RB is a perfect tool for this. Rainbow Bridge will aid Turkey's EU aspirations and generate a more constructive image toward the sceptical French, German and Scandinavian publics.
Rainbow Bridge will also highlight Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded secular democratic Turkey of approximately 97% Muslims where an individual is entitled to freedom of belief; though this gets hampered by everyday politics of course. He really was an interesting character, though if you are into single religious theocratic states you obviously won't agree.
Ataturk said: "Our religion is the most reasonable and natural of all, and that is the reason why it is the most recently established religion. For a religion to be natural it must conform to reason, science, technology and logic. Our religion fully conforms to all of these."
Churchill said: "Ataturk's death is not only a loss for the country, but for Europe is the greatest loss, he who saved Turkey in the war and who revived a new the Turkish nation after the war. The sincere tears shed after him by all classes of people is nothing other than an appropriate manifestation to this great hero and modern Turkey's Ata."

The message is simple: peace, tolerance and dialogue are good for business and there are major themes of peace to be promoted from Turkey:

- 7 peaceful colours of the rainbow which appeared in the skies above Mount Ararat in present day Eastern Turkey, along with the dove and olive branch - all representing universal symbols of peace

- the Mevlevi Whirling Dervish movement founded in Konya giving Turkey a tailor-made peace slogan for her tourism industry: Come, come who ever you are, however you are, just come.

- Ataturk founded the secular democratic Republic of Turkey 1923 consisting of 7 internal regions and touched by 7 bordering countries: Greece, Bulgaria, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. He left us all with a standard bearer quote applicable for all peace minded
nations throughout the world: Peace at home, peace in the world.

If you wish to support the project I can only suggest you write to Mr. Ahmet Necet Sezer
The President of the Republic of Turkey, Cankaya Kosku, Ankara 06100, Turkiye and ask his office to pass on the supportive messages to the necessary authorities. At least this President seems to be a reasonable figure amongst so many insecure and visionless authority figures in our world today.

Thank you.

4:16 PM  

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