Dünya Dilleri

Turkish Sound of Orientalism: Turquerie

The main emphasis of the nationalist idea which makes the societies believe in homogeneity of ethnicity, created the same belief in art, culture and music. We, the people who get the education of 20th century, started to think that the culture, art and music came into the existence independently from other societies and cultural heritages. Nebahat Avcıoğlu, explains this situation as “ The strong Europeanization of the Kemalist era seems to have vindicated this approach ( she means the Enlightenment which characterized as the triumphant march of rationality, liberty and progress) by a force amnesia of its own past. Concomitantly, Europe is portrayed as actively protecting itself from the eastern influences by fetishizing its interest in exotic modes such as turquerie or orientalism while the diffusion of European ideas and material cultures is viewed predominantly as the means for modernization.” As it could be seen in the quotation, people believe in homogeneity of their cultural features for different reasons. However, the real objective history gives us the opportunity of seeing the exact opposite examples of this approach. Contrary what is believed, we see the real interaction and effect of cultures with the others. One of those example is the West`s attention to the East and their interest in applying Oriental figures and styles in their own culture and art which is called orientalism and turquerie. Let’s look at Turkish influence on the European culture and art in general by considering these terms.

Lord Byran

Orientalism that was first used by Lord Byran in 1812 to mean `the knowledge and study of the Orient`  has been one of the most trending topics in last centuries. Bernans Lewis gives two different definitions of orientalism in his The Question of Orientalism book. In the first definition it means a school of painting created by western European painters who have visited the Middle East and North Africa and portrayed what they saw or imagined in a romantic style. The second meaning is the field of an academic pursuit.[1] Although in the nineteenth century that Orientalism came to mean the practice of Orientalist scholarship, there was an interest in the Orient among European thinkers well before the invention of these words. Undiscovered, exotic, strong and powerful East was the focus of interest in the West. Zeynep Inankur states that ` Attention to the East in painting actually dates far earlier than the nineteenth century when Orientalism became fasionable. This fasion is affected by Turkish conquest of Constantinople, because the East and the West became closer to each other. After becoming closer, cultural interaction began and Western artists, musicians are influenced by exotic topics and they used Islamic turban, oriental clothes, oriental instruments and the Eastern type of architecture like hamam and mosques in their own works. In addition to this, for artists in general, seeking exotic themes, Turkey was starting point.We name this interest especially in Turkey / Ottoman Empire as turquerie. Turquerie which is a cross-cultural art more, could be explained by dividing in two titles: Turquerie as self-representation and Turquerie as the art of travel.

Firstly, Turquerie as self-representation was very effective from 18th century that the Enlightenment relieved its own principles. “Rich in signs, stories and meanings, the Enlightenment taste for the Ottomans offered learned men and women a reservoir of inspirations and instruments with which to shape, negotiate or reformulate an identity.” This way of manufacturing one`s public identity for socio-political purposes,  is self-representation. Of course, this self-representation is connected to understanding of power. In times which the Ottoman Empire was recognized as superior model, the West tried to gain and keep this powerfulness by using some symbolic elements of that culture. However, we can`t say that the West just imitated the Ottomans. They “looked to the Ottoman culture not to become `Turks`, but as a symbolic language with which to fashion and negotiate their `otherness`, to reshape it into a new self in the domain of representation.”  The Turks here, provides a possibility for stylistic individualization that could be the meaning of powerful, dynamic and intellectual other.

On the other hand, Turquerie as the art of travel is another way of expression this influence. Traveller`s observation are crucial for identifying and interpreting the motives behind the emulation of Turkish exoticism especially in architecture in Western Europe. When the 18th and 19th century`s travellers came to the Ottoman lands, their demand for observing this culture was conditioned by their expectation of returning home to publish an account. That`s why, they wrote their accounts and these accounts were used as Turkish cultural resource by the artists and architects. Avcıoğlu states this situation as following “Both verbal and visual forms of architectural information found in traveller’s account had a significant role on the developing epistemology of architecture in its treatment of the Ottomans in general in Europe.” The example of letters of Lady Mary in 18th century could be given for creating such an exotic epistemology in Europe. Lady Mary who is the wife of British Ambassador, wrote many letters describing Istanbul, Turkish women, Turkish baths etc. These letters caused a Turkish culture narrative which influenced the architect`s education, as well as the state of architecture in Europe in the nineteenth century, than it had been previously.

To sum up, culture is a very complicated and rich structure. Although, the West typify the historiography of the interaction to date which downplays or even denies continuing Turkish cultural and political impact in Europe because of the reasons said in previous paragraphs, we are able to get evidences demonstrates European attention to cultural elements of the East. Throughout years, turquerie which we defined as a Turkish cultural effect in the West, was very fasionable and remerkable. By the foreign ambassadors and travellers in Ottoman Empire, a dialectical process that contributed to transculturation in both the West and the East is created. And, thanks to this endless potential of cross-cultural atmosphere, men and women.