LIKE A TURK

I have always had a passion for maps. What probably fascinates me the most about these instruments are the lines that determine what is in and what is out. Borders are usually traced by cartographers in red. They are represented in a different color than the rivers, the roads or the mountains. If we look at a map of Turkey, we see how great a separation these lines create. None of the bordering countries use the Latin alphabet. Not even the very European Greece. Only Turkey does. Circumnavigating its perimeter, the countries we encounter are a concentration of the world's current focus: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece.

The West likes to see Turkey as Europe's last outpost. The East sees it as Asia's seed in the center of the maps. Turkey is both and much more. This proud country is defined by a border that encompasses what's left of the vast and glorified Ottoman Empire. Much of what Western history has chronicled lies within these boundaries. The first Christian communities, where the religion was born and kept alive for centuries, the old Mesopotamia, with its great rivers and fertile lands, the Arab world and the Shia theocracy, mystic faiths and ancient rituals. Pushing in from the outside are old enemies, living ghosts and deported peoples: Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, natives of the chaotic Balkans, and now Syrian refugees.

Having traveled along this ten-thousand-kilometer-long frontier, I have come to understand that, more then separating the Turks from the rest of the world, these borders actually form the Turkish identity. Geographical limits don't only separate, but at times actually unify men, cultures and histories. Frontiers become a place of amalgamation and of blending. I have met these frontier people and have attempted to convey the multiple and oscillating hearts of this sponge country. A country that is a kaleidoscope of histories, faiths and the identities that very much define East and West. 

© Edoardo Delille, 2019. All rights reserved.

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