x0x VILLAGE OF THE DOLLS
- 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
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.