Turkey has been under lockdown for more than two months. How have citizens kept themselves busy while they’ve been told to stay at home?
With the exception of key workers who have been keeping hospitals running, supermarkets open, and our daily lives functioning, most Turkish citizens have been staying at home as per the government’s guidelines.
Being in lockdown with family members or pets can be challenging, but thankfully there are many online offerings in Turkey that have been keeping boredom and interfamilial disputes at bay.
Had the coronavirus not taken over our social lives, the first two weeks of April would have welcomed Istanbul’s Foundation for Culture and Arts’ (IKSV) 39th annual film festival. IKSV has adapted to the times, selecting fifteen recent films to be screened online between 15 and 29 May, with additional screenings to be viewed until 31 May.
IKSV has also had to cancel its annual jazz festival, which would have been scheduled for July. In its place, it is offering director Batu Akyol’s film “Jazz in Turkey” on its YouTube channel. With a running time of 100 minutes, the film takes the viewer on a journey through Turkey’s jazz history, with contributions from valued Turkish and foreign musicians.
Music has also characterised the lockdown for some. A popular radio DJ, Levent Erim, for example, has been hosting popular Instagram sessions from his account, entertaining his followers.
Similarly, Corridor, a bar and club located in Beyoglu’s Asmalimescit district, has been hosting DJ parties via Zoom, providing details and password information via their Facebook page. The parties have been going on from 11pm to 4am, and vary by theme.
Another DJ, Mehmet Koryurek, aka “Aksak”, decided to set up a YouTube channel specifically to provide club DJs a platform and an outlet through which they can still connect to audiences, and perhaps even win sponsorship to help pay them a stipend while clubs remain shut.
A DJ with over thirty years experience, Koryurek, 47, set up life from istanbul* on 25 April earlier this year. The channel received a positive response, with nearly 35,000 unique views and 250,000 views. Life from istanbul* broadcasts daily, sometimes with more than one DJ set a day. During Eid, Koryurek says, there were 25 YouTube parties.
“This is a hard time for all cultural workers,” he explains. “From the guy who shows you to your seats in the movie theatre, to the lady who sells popcorn.” He hopes that the coronavirus lockdown will not eventually push cultural workers into other lines of work just to make a living, saying it will starve the country of much-needed arts and culture if that happens.
The International Migration Film Festival was planned to be held in the city of Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey. The coronavirus pandemic caused a change to the schedule, however, and organisers have now arranged for the 50-odd films to be screened online between the dates of 14 and 21 June.
The festival, which has support from Turkey’s Presidency, Interior Ministry, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Directorate General of Migration Management and many more, will also be hosting a competition that will look to hand out prizes to award-winning films of yesteryear. The collection of films will be split into two camps, International Feature Film, and International Short Film. There will be substantial cash prizes for the winners, totalling a generous 26 thousand euros.
Meanwhile, the newest online channel put out by state broadcaster, Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), which was launched at the end of March, is generously stocked and is part of the company’s drive to provide better and more comprehensive content during the lockdown.
The channel includes popular television series, but also educational content for children. This has suited all those who have not been able to attend school in this period. Its success was evident when it topped the app store charts for most downloads at the time of its launch, beating strong adversaries such as Netflix.
Access to the arts continues via Istanbul’s Sakip Sabanci Museum. The popular Salvador Dali exhibition that the museum housed over ten years ago, is now available online and free of charge.
Similarly, Arter, an art space supported by the Vehbi Koc Foundation, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with online guided tours which run every Friday, as well as seminars and activities that can be enjoyed with children.