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818x0x VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    Feb 2, 2003
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      x0x VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS

      By Akgun Akova

      As we get older where do we seek the gardens of our childhood? Can our
      memories bring back lullabies, jingling bells of the flocks, games of
      hide and seek, and strings of kites? How do we revive images of those
      old markets, wedding suppers, sheep shearing, the face of a young
      bride looking in the mirror? Is the lark nesting amongst the ears of
      wheat waiting for us somewhere? Or in migrating from country to city
      have we paid the price of losing the houses, streets and villages
      where we were born? If we have lost them, how can we bring them back
      to life from our memories?

      Perhaps you have never asked yourself any of these questions. Perhaps
      memories of your childhood have slipped beyond even the reach of
      dreams. But for Ayhan and Nazmiye Cetin their childhood in Akviran, a
      village in the province of Konya, has not faded. To be more accurate,
      they have not allowed it to fade. They have been busy producing
      handmade dolls which tell the story of Akviran from the 1920s onwards.

      Drawing for their creativity on the past, with patience and
      painstaking attention to detail, they made dolls, each 30 centimetres
      tall. Then they made houses between 50 and 80 centimetres in height.

      On the flat roofs they placed women spreading out tarhana to dry; in a
      garden a bridegroom being shaved ready for his wedding; children
      playing leapfrog; a traveller with his packhorse climbing a hill. Is
      this all a feat of their imagination? No, this is exactly as it was
      when they lived in the village. Even the names of the shops are as
      they were: Blacksmith Mehmet Ali Usta, Barber Yakup, Grocer Ahmet,
      Tinsmith Muhittin Usta, and the rest.

      This reconstructed village might be naïve, but at the same time it is
      charming and poignant. This 'house of memories' containing a miniature
      world is now open to the public. It is not far from Ephesus. All you
      have to do is go to the crossroads leading to Selcuk, Pamucak,
      Kusadasi and Seferihisar, and travel 300 metres along the road to
      Kusadasi. The first thing you see is live sized models in the garden.
      A woman carries her swaddled baby on her back.

      An old man with a white beard sits upon a jar sipping his coffee. Then
      you open the door of the one storey building and enter the village of
      Akviran, inhabited by dolls! There you first notice a familiar face.

      It is Nasreddin Hoca, the legendary Turkish wit and commentator on
      human nature whose stories are still being told six or seven centuries
      later. He is riding his famous donkey, with a crowd of children
      gathered around him.

      A little beyond him nomads descend from the Toros Mountains with their
      camels loaded with pomegranates, oranges and carobs to barter for
      wheat from the village before returning to the mountains. A shepherd
      is herding his goats, while the sheepdogs guard the kids. Hardly any
      aspect of village life is not brought to life here.

      Now it is time to look more closely at the dolls themselves. First the
      framework of the body is made, then the heads and hands attached, and
      the body stuffed with paper and cloth.


      String is then wound around the body, and the hair and eyelashes of
      wool fixed on. This is the job of Ayhan Cetin. His wife Nazmiye
      dresses them in clothes which are exact replicas of those worn at the
      time. The houses are made of paper, cardboard, wood and polystyrene
      foam.

      In one of the houses the inhabitants are busy preparing winter
      provisions. Wheat that has been washed, boiled and dried, is being
      ground with a hand mill into bulgur. In the village square a peddler
      is selling printed cottons, flannel dresses, mirrors and hair slides
      to the women of the village. In one yard a woman is washing the
      laundry, and in another melted lead is being poured to protect a
      pretty girl from the evil eye. Tobacco purchased from the tobacconist
      is being rolled into cigarettes, and a photographer beneath the black
      cloth of his old-fashioned camera is taking a photograph of his
      client, who is seated on a wooden chair.

      A young man off to do his national service is taking his leave of
      friends and family. All the daily tasks and eventful happenings of
      village life in the early 20th century are here. There is even a bear,
      named perhaps Balaban or perhaps Kocaoglan, on the back of a man lying
      in the street! But don't worry, the bear is not trying to kill him
      only cure his back pains. The bea'st owner stands beside them playing
      a tambourine, and if only the spell were broken he would certainly
      start singing. In the village coffeehouse people are drinking their
      well brewed glasses of tea as they chat to their neighbours. Perhaps
      they are discussing the wrestling tournament held in the next village.

      In the nearby fields people are busy harvesting. A man gives water he
      has drawn from the well to some dappled horses. The miller is busy
      too, loading sacks of flour onto the donkey of a customer.

      In the yard of one cottage some colourful work is going on. I say
      colourful not in the metaphorical sense, but because wool is being
      dyed in cauldrons and hung up to dry.

      This will be used by the young girls to weave the rugs that will adorn
      their houses when they are married. To the sound of drum and flute,
      boys and girls are performing dances of Silifke and the Aegean. They
      are guest performers, joining in the cheerful life of the village.

      So is anything missing in this traditional village which opened its
      doors last May? Of course there is: the dolls do not talk! But perhaps
      Ayhan and Nazmiye Cetin will manage that one day.

      On the roof of one of the adobe houses you will see a child with a
      dreamy expression flying his kite. Look carefully at him, because he
      will grow up to make all these dolls and recreate the village of
      Akviran. This is no other than Ayhan Cetin himself as a child. l

      * Akgun Akova is a freelance writer.