Turkey is instrumental in reviving traditional archery with the annual Conquest Cup that celebrates the anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
In late May, archers from various countries assembled in Istanbul to celebrate the anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 at the Sixth Annual Conquest Cup (Fetih Kupasi), an internationally renowned archery competition held at Istanbul's Okcular Vakfi, or, the Archer’s Foundation. Renowned as Turkey’s oldest and largest archery complex, the foundation was established by Sultan Mehmet II about 565 years ago. The original stone pulpit (namazgah) used for meetings and prayer stands tall to this day and it was also here that strategies were discussed prior to warfare.
More than 500 archers representing 50 nationalities flowed into the grounds of Okcular Vakfi beautifully dressed in their country’s traditional attire. Each country proudly representing their respective tradition gave rise to a harmonious and almost carnival-like atmosphere. Most Turkish archers dressed in Ottoman-era outfits whilst competitors from countries such as Mongolia and Kazakhstan dressed in Turk-Mongol warrior inspired outfits and the contingent of Norwegians displayed a certain Nordic flair.
The participants from different backgrounds sat together at sunset, eating their meals alongside their fellow archers, many of whom were fasting during the month of Ramadan.
The competition consisted of two main categories: target archery, which required participants to shoot distances between 60-70 metres, and flight archery, in which competitors aim to shoot the furthest distance possible using heavy-poundage bows. Both female and male archers were represented in both categories.
Dhanisa Restya and Ernita Sustani, flew all the way from East Java, Indonesia to attend the competition. Restya came solely to support her friend Sustani. “Ernita is my motivation," Restya said. "She is the reason I started archery. We have been friends for four years and I am here to support her and my husband who is also competing.”
Sustani sadly didn’t get through to later rounds. “I didn’t make it through, but the experience is what matters to me," Sustani told TRT World. " I have been practicing archery for three years now. I initially started for my children, I wanted for them to pick up a skill, practice a sport rather than living in the world of gadgets and technology – and what better way to encourage them than to do it myself. I feel that practicing archery has helped discipline my children and has brought our family closer together.”
Hurrem Sultan Özcan and her husband Kenan Özcan were from the first group to start practicing traditional archery at Okcular Vakfi.
“Archery is a lifestyle; we both started together five years ago and have been practicing since," Hurrem said. "My biggest battle when competing is myself. I have to control my nerves, the adrenaline, and only then am I able to focus on my opponent and the target.”
This year, Hurrem achieved first place winning the women’s target archery competition category.
75-year-old Toufik has been practicing archery for almost 50 years. He flew in from Madrid with his younger brother, 67-year-old Omar, to participate in the competition. “I started archery by accident whilst on a trip in Japan in 1971, I have tested out many different styles of archery over the years." Toufik said. "It is something I enjoy and do on a daily basis – in local archery clubs in Madrid and even on the terrace in my house.”
Khadijah Qureshy, a young 19-year-old from the UK, moved to Istanbul a year and a half ago to pursue her dream of making Traditional Archery her profession. She achieved first place in last year’s Conquest Cup in the women’s target archery category and is an example of how traditional archery has risen in popularity amongst a younger generation. “The Traditional form of archery is the most authentic to ancient tradition. You practice the sport in its rawest and most original form. Being an instinctive shooter when the arrow hits it’s mark, the feeling is beyond words,” she said. This year Khadijah achieved first place in the women’s flight archery competition category.
In recent years, there has been a revival of Ottoman culture, this this can be see through popular shows such as "Dirilis Ertugrul," (a program focusing on the story of the great Ertugrul Gazi, father of Osman who established the Ottoman Empire). It can also be seen through architecture and through sport with events like Etnospor, an annual sport festival hosted in Istanbul that celebrates the cultural sports of Turkic communities around the world.
Okcular Vakfi has been working on reviving the traditional form of Ottoman Turkish Archery since 2013. Under the supervision of Cuneyt Oztan, the traditional archery team at Okcular Vakfi has steadily grown and now consists of 70 members and offers weekly traditional archery classes to both children and adults.
Sabdurrahman, a competitor from the Aceh province of Indonesia, bagged third position in the target archery men’s category, becoming the first Indonesian to do so. “Archery has been a part of our history and culture since the Ottoman expedition to Aceh in 1565," he said. "This is what inspired me to start learning, as well as archery being a sport deeply rooted in our religion. This is my first competition here, in Turkey, and I am extremely proud and happy to have won this medal.”
The finals fell on the anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople and ended with a beautiful ceremony inaugurated by Bilal Erdogan, son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both the governor and mayor of Istanbul were also in attendance and presented the winners with their medals and prize money.
The competition brought together many people from all over the globe. New friendships and bonds were created based on the competitors' mutual love and passion for this ancient sport.
It was almost midnight by the time the archers unstrung their bows. The soft echo of traditional Ottoman music against the full moon marked the end of the sixth Conquest Cup.