Imbrahimpasa is sleepier than Sleepy Hollow – it is definitely the town that time forgot. Babayan Culture House is perched on the edge of town, overlooking the narrow valley full of poplar trees. At this edge of town, and all along the lower reaches of the village, are abandoned and ruined stone houses from the time of the Greek-Turkish population exchange of the early 1920s. These have wonderful arches, doorways, paint-peeling doors, and sometimes beautifully carved stone decorative elements on the walls. The colour of these buildings is a variety of white on white, with black, brown and green additions, depending on the state of the building’s decrepitude. Inside some of these you can sometimes see evidence of its occupants’ lives in the form of rotted curtains and garbage.
To me, it looks like half the village is made up of these deserted houses. Today’s villagers prefer to live at the top of the hill and there are some quite nice new stone houses on the crest of the hill. But now that they can see how some people are renovating these old cave houses that may change. At the moment, and for hundreds of years, the villagers have just dumped their garbage into the valley and left it to disintegrate. I took a walk from the Culture House down through the valley and up the other side where I had a great view of the volcano behind Ibrahimpasa and, in the distance in the other direction, the larger town of Ortahisar. “Hisar” means “fortress” and this term refers to a large hill or pinnacle of stone that rises above the town and was historically used as a watchtower.
As I was walking back to the village over a newly renovated bridge, an old Turkish lady collared me and, in very loud Turkish, invited me in to her place for a cup of tea. She spoke not a peep of English and, while I did have my Turkish-English dictionary with me, all I was able to communicate to her was, “I don’t speak Turkish” … She served me two cups of tea and some scone-like pastries which she’d made, and, when I declined a third cup, dumped a whole bag of very small dried apricots in my backpack. This village is known for its dried apricots and this is one of its few cash crops. When I returned to BCH and mentioned to Willemijn that I’d met this lady “Fatma” she explained to me that this woman, and others, like to try and sell foreigners who visit whatever they have to sell – in this case, dried apricots. I did not realize that Fatma was probably asking me for money and possibly getting frustrated that I did not understand and did not give her any money for the apricots. I thought she was just being hospitable … maybe she was but probably not.
Willemijn’s cats are lovely, the small grey and white one particularly although the longhaired black beast is also super friendly. Last night, while I was working on my first watercolour painting of the village, I heard a cry at my door and opening it, the little devil rushed inside and proceeded to rub around my legs for quite a while.
Willemijn is a painter and Paul is a musician and artist; sometimes during the day I can hear him practicing on his guitar or piano. This is really a place where a visitor has to make her own entertainment, so to speak. I’m the only artist staying at the residency at the moment, although a woman from Portugal is due to arrive the week before I leave. My plan at the moment is, in addition to taking photos and video of the landscape, to make one small watercolour painting every day, to do rubbings of the carved stone decorative motifs and, possibly, to make some small acrylic paintings on wood, if I can find some small pieces of smooth wood here. In one of the abandoned cave houses next door, the remains of a previous artist’s installation are left behind in the form of cast cement doors.