Stones and Garbage, Nevsehir

Sevim at the dump

Paul, Willemijn, the new artist from Portugal, Marina, and I spent some time in the area around Nevsehir yesterday. Marina is a wood sculptor working on large totem-like structures in abstract patterns. However, wood is difficult to get ahold of here because all the trees and branches lying around are owned by the villagers and can’t be taken without permission. So perhaps Marina will work in stone until she can manage to get wood.

So we headed out to a stone quarry and carving studio between Goreme and Nevsehir. On the way we stopped to have a look at one of the three “Love Valleys” here, so called because of their large erect penis-like formations in stone.

At the stone quarry, the owner, Violette from France, showed us around the place, pointing out the various types of stone and the sorts of carving they do with it. The workmen, as is usual here, did not wear any protective gear, not even goggles … They are working on a reproduction of the stone entrance door from a very old mosque; it has been commissioned by a new mosque in the area. Made of soft, yellow stone, the carving and motifs are beautiful. As we sipped a cup of tea, Violette showed Willemijn and Marina around and gave Marina two pieces of yellow stone to try out for free. She also offered to let Marina come to the shop and learn carving as an apprentice and, if she’s good, she can have a job there carving. Apparently, it is difficult to get good carvers in this area and the quarry has lots of commissions to be done.

From the quarry, we could see, carved into the hill opposite by a foreign artist, the outline of a large horse. Based on the Trojan horse, it is actually a wall made from 3 meter high stones which can be seen from quite far away. The word Cappadocia means “Land of the Horses”.

Our next stop was the garbage dump. We travelled here through a rather desolate steppe landscape of grass and bare dark rock bereft of trees – no tourist brochure landscapes here. As usual, blue garbage bags and other refuse blighted the view. This garbage has been dumped illegally by people too lazy to make the drive all the way up to the real dump …

Upon arriving at the dump proper, we were approached by the head guy to whom Willemijn explained that we were artists wanting to see a different side of Turkey. He allowed us to take pictures of the dump but said no photos of people or their houses (we did sneak some, as you can see, but did not take full face photos of anyone unless they gave permission). The people you see in the pictures, Kurds from eastern Turkey, live here. Their houses are made from dump garbage, as are their clothes, the toys the children play with and the food they eat. Everything they subsist on comes from foraging in the dump. Men and women work all day long, shifting through the garbage, separating out things they can use and things that can be recycled; the recycling material then gets picked up and taken elsewhere for processing. Amazingly, there was little stink and no flies; the mounds of garbage not used get covered over with layers of furnace ashes, also taken from the garbage dropped off, to decontaminate it.

One woman sitting on a bag of garbage spent a few minutes talking to Willemijn about herself. Sevim said she was from Urfa, that she had had a nice house with a nice garden there, but had been married 5 months ago to a garbage man and was now living on the dump. She can’t read or write and does not know how old she is. We speculated that, since she’s only been married 5 months, and women marry in their mid teens in these villages and rural areas, she must be only 16 or so, even though she looks like she’s in her early 30s. This life ages you fast. She was only able to talk for a few minutes before a man who we assumed to be her husband indicated that she had to get back on the job; she got up, grabbed a huge bag of garbage and moved off.

The houses here, all made from other people’s disgards, are arranged more or less like nomadic tents, in a kind of circle. Strangely, these junk-houses all have satellite dishes – people have TV here. I don’t know whether or not the dishes came from the dump or whether they used some of the money they get for doing this work to buy them. Unreal … All the children here are illiterate and the likelihood of any of them getting out of this life is remote. They have no cars; two large delivery trucks sit broken down in front, one of which has already been converted into a living space for someone. Although they must know that there is a different life somewhere else, that TV fantasy life does not appear as a reality to which they could ever aspire. These folks are on the lowest rung of the economic and social totem pole, living a life out of Charles Dicken’s 19th century imaginings.

See pictures here.

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