From hostility to lasting friendship: cultural reflections from Turkish and Anzac soldiers

Dr Azer Banu Kemaloglu
Dr Azer Banu Kemaloğlu, Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University

For the first time in Australia, stories of Turkish soldiers will be told alongside those of Anzac soldiers in a bilingual exhibition at Monash Univeristy about the Gallipoli experience.

The exhibition “From hostility to lasting friendship” has been curated by Dr Azer Banu Kemaloğlu, of Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, and brings together personal accounts of Gallipoli from ten Turkish and ten Anzac soldiers, based on narratives and soldier diaries.

“The exhibition offers a chance to rethink our position, in light of these private reflections, to the former enemy, with whom we now share a lasting friendship. As an act of remembrance the exhibition will commemorate our mutual loss by enabling the unheard voices of 1915 to express themselves in 2015,” Dr Kemaloğlu said.

Exhibition images of pressed leaves preserved between the pages of Australian soldiers’ diaries show a curiosity and affection for the Gallipoli landscape which is unexpected and touching, and a Turkish account of cigarettes and ‘roast beef in cans’ being thrown back and forth over the trenches is a reminder of the practical exchanges, and even humour shared, between soldiers on opposite sides.

“If such personal stories are unearthed, the human voice will restore something never felt during the campaign”, Dr Kemaloğlu said.

“For instance, Turkish people will sympathize with the Anzac soldier who keeps flowers in his diary and describes beautiful Gallipoli sunsets. Australian and New Zealand people will discover the naiveté of the Turkish veterans who refuse the veteran pay claiming that it was their duty to fight for their country.”

soldier-narratives-foyer-exhibit

“The presentation enables a mutual understanding between peoples of Turkey, Australia and New Zealand and transcends national and ideological boundaries by revealing how similar the experiences of the Turkish soldiers were to those of the Australians.”

The exhibition is part of an interdisciplinary project entitled ‘’From Hostility to Lasting Friendship: Cultural Reflections from the Turkish and Anzac Soldier Diaries and Narratives’’ (funded by TUBITAK-The Scientific and Technological Council of Turkey in 2013-2015). The project aimed to uncover an alternative Gallipoli story based on ordinary soldier narratives, focusing on the cultural themes discovered in Anzac soldier diaries and interviews made with the descendants of Turkish veterans.

The project team consisted of nine researchers from Turkey, from disciplines ranging from history to literature, one advisor from New Zealand, and five advisors from Australia including Professor Rae Frances and Professor Bruce Scates from Monash University. Preliminary research was carried out in Australia in 2011-2012 during Dr Kemaloglu’s fellowship at Monash University-National Centre for Australian Studies, supported by Monash University and Gallipoli Memorial Club in Sydney.

The exhibition was first shown in Turkey as part of the Çanakkale/Gallipoli Wars 2015 International Conference (May 21-24, 2015). Later this month the exhibition will move to  the University of South Australia, Magill Campus (November 19-20, 2015) as part of the Reflections of War Conference, and then to the State Library of South Australia, (November 26 – December 6, 2015). In February 2016 the exhibit will be presented in New Zealand.

Monash University is currently hosting the exhibition in the foyer of the Menzies Building (20 Chancellors Walk, Clayton Campus).

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