As one of our featured artists, the spotlight is on Güler Ates, a UK-based mid-career artist from the displaced Zaza Alevi community in Eastern Turkey.
Read on to find out more about Güler’s practice and current works.
I am currently working on a new body of work, funded by Arts Council England (DYCP) which is an extension of my continued investigations into refugees narratives, migration and exile, as an exploration into the experience of cultural displacement.
This project connects historical spaces to personal stories of refugees, which I’ve been archiving and collecting through a variety of workshops conducted between 2014 and the present. My collection includes texts, poems and patchworks gathered from my exchanges with Turkish, Zaza, Sudanese, Syrian, Iranian, Kurdish, Iraqi and Eritrean Refugees.
Direct personal accounts of migration have been forming the basis for my new works; appliqué, sound art and video.
Documenting lived experiences
When I work with the community/groups, each shared experience with the participants is a very inspiring and meaningful and bonding experience. The fundamental intention is that the participants of the workshop have a good experience, bond or create new friendships and have a good time in a safe environment. Sometimes I mentor some of the participants so the conversation continues. I want to create physical works out of the outcome of the workshops and share our voices to a wider audience.
I archived the patchworks and text with the participants permission and I documented all the works that were donated. I am in the process of creating a series of five handmade and digital appliqué quilts integrating the appliqué panels. It is still work in progress but each completed quilt will be approximately 140cm (H) by 200cm – 250cm (W) hanging alone and as part of an installation. The archived text is also part of the quilt and I printed multi-layered text on silk fabric digitally some of which was shown at the Absent Authors exhibition at the APT gallery in London in 2021.
My new collaboration with the Turkish singer Cagla Yildiz aims to develop a new sound piece that is a blend of Zazaki and Kurdish folk music with Classical Western music. The result of this exchange is to be presented as a sound installation.
The Zaza history is very little known both inside and outside of Turkey. Zazaki, the home language of the Zaza community, was listed as an endangered language by UNESCO in 2009. It is an Indo-European language and it is part of the Zaza-Gorani language of the north-western group of the Indian branch. Despite some recent encouraging developments, it still faces the risk of extinction.
Through these new works I will continue to keep the language alive and celebrate the distinctive culture, which gave birth to and sustains it. This also constitutes a process of rediscovering my own maternal language, which was partially lost due to the oppression and long-standing information access barriers.
Working with Cagla Yildiz is allowing me to experiment with new ways of presenting and engaging with my mother tongue, by blending Zazaki with Classical Western music.
I am collecting text from displaced people (including my family) so I hope to create one voice from the collective voices and share the main concerns or feelings.
This poem was written by a very close family member, Mehmet Seyitalioglu. He is actively working to keep the Zazaki language alive in his capacity with writing and poetry. I hope to publish a poem book that is written in Zazaki and English. Hopefully more music composition would follow from these poems.
You can find out more about Güler Ates by heading to gulerates.co.uk