Rena Effendi: Last Dance Of Tarlabasi (2011)
Artist Statement :
"A dilapidated neighborhood in the city’s center, the main street of Tarlabasi runs parallel to Istiklal Prospect, Istanbul’s cosmopolitan artery. If, by walking down Istiklal, you can hear the city’s heartbeat, then Tarlabasi, only 3 minutes away, is its shadow twin, beating with its own irregular rhythm.
In spite of its run-down looks and reputation for widespread crime, Tarlabasi is a culturally vibrant neighborhood kaleidoscope - populated by Kurdish migrant workers from Anatolia, Roma gypsies, Greeks and African immigrants - from devout Muslims to trans-gender sex workers. But this diverse social fabric is being torn apart, since on June 12, 2011 the Beyoglu municipality began a series of forced evictions - following the government’s plan for city beautification. As a result of this recent urban development initiative, many of the current Tarlabasi residents are being “bought out” and ordered to leave, as their homes are demolished to accommodate the construction of upscale residences. Entire building blocks in Tarlabasi have already been sold off to private companies, transforming the streets into ghostly barracks, pending reconstruction. However, many of the neighborhood’s residents, their faces and lifestyles do not fit in with the new, “modern”, mandated look of Tarlabasi.
Last Dance of Tarlabasi is a visual tale of this neighborhood as it struggles to survive the ruthless pace of Istanbul’s urban change. The symbolic center of this story is a Roma Gypsy wedding - where Mukattes, a 17-year old bride who was born and raised in Tarlabasi, is devastated at the prospect of leaving her home and her family behind. “Wipe your tears and dance - the most beautiful girl of Tarlabasi! Soon you will not be here!” – her relatives chant as they pour onto a small alley of the Gypsy quarter in wild celebration. Mukattes’ infinite homesickness echoes in the hearts of most Tarlabasi residents, though some choose to resist government pressure and take legal action against the new measures. “I’m happy here, I have my beautiful roof-top terrace. The center is nearby. They are doing it for a greater good, but not for me!” – says Ali Ber, a 45-year-old Kurdish migrant from Mardin, who has a pending court case against the local municipality. “I’ve lived here for more than 20 years; all my children grew up here. Why should I leave? If they want to make Tarlabasi better, why can’t I be part of it?” – he asks.”