‘I first came across Les Arts Turcs when I went to have dinner with a friend of mine who lives in Balat. I am an English author and arabeskI write fictional crime novels set in Istanbul. I therefore travel the city considerably and have, over the years, been in receipt of a lot of help and advice from friends like my Balat contact, Ersin .
So it was that in June 2003, my husband and I turned up in Balat with a journalist from Die Welt to whom I had just given an interview. Iris, the journalist, was keen to see my friends remarkable house with its fabulous garden and amazing views of the city.
My friend, hospitable as ever, was only too pleased to entertain our party – which also now included a Die Welt photographer too! Not that Ersin was alone when we arrived. Also present in his wonderful garden was Rory McLean ,a Canadian travel writer, and also a man called Nurdogan Senguler. Talk over an excellent and leisurely dinner was
of international affairs,literature,travel, art and also the work of an organisation Nurdogan was absolutely passionate about – Les Arts Turcs. It was, he said, a state of mind as well as a place and, if I wanted to visit, I would be very welcome.

The following day, intrigued, I did just that. The Les Arts Turcs studio is situated on the top floor of a building on Incili Cavus Sokak,no 37/3 Sultanahmet (Yerebatan Sarayi Arkasi). From its belshazzarsdaughterwide windows one can see, and be invigorated by,
amazing views of Aya Sofya, The Blue Mosque, the Sea of Marmara and the vibrant street life of this fascinating district of Istanbul. The studio itself is a large, airy space whose walls are decorated with artwork which has been inspired by the city, the Turkish people and the beautiful music and dance of the Sufis. Although a calm and contemplative atmosphere is evident, the studio is also a busy place of work where people create works
of art, explore ideas and promote the various services on offer via the Les Arts website. My husband, who is not of an artistic nature, spent several happy hours talking to programmers and web designers while I immersed myself in the considerable library and listened to Sufi music. As well as coming to see the place I was also intent upon buying some Sufi music CD’s for my son. Nurdogan and his brother Ali advised me on this point very well. I listened, and learned too, for hours. Drinking tea, sitting and closing my eyes, looking at the art work – much of which mirrored the music – was a very peaceful and uplifting experience. And when I did purchase some CD’s I did so in an informed way. I was pleased and my son was, and still is, delighted with his recordings. Not that one
has to buy or even do anything at the studio if one doesn’t want to. chemicalprison Les Arts Turcs is, as Nurdogan had told me that first night in Balat, a state of mind as well as a place. It’s about exploring – through visual images, the written word and the verbalisation of ideas – the inner creative life of people both within and beyond the great city of Istanbul. The work of beginners as well as of great artists, like Ara Guler, are displayed and discussed in an atmosphere of exploration and
appreciation. One can be invited, as I was,or just drop in and how long one stays is entirely dependent upon what is happening as opposed to the dictates of set closing times or even sometimes, I am told, the need for sleep! For me it was an experience and it is one that I will be repeating when I next return to Istanbul. Nurdogan e-mails me often with details of his latest projects and it is both satisfying and interesting for me to see how Les Arts Turcs is evolving. Happily this ‘state of mind’ appears to be
spreading both in terms of projects undertaken and the number of people,of various nationalities, involved with them. Les Arts Turcs mission continues…’ deepwaters“

Barbara Nadel is the author of five fictional novels set in Istanbul.
Published in Britain by Hodder Headline they are, ‘Belshazzar’s Daughter’, ‘A Chemical Prison’, ‘Arabesk’, ‘Deep Waters’ and ‘Harem’. The first three titles are also published in Turkish by Oglak Publishers, Istanbul.

Barbara’s sixth novel, ‘Petrified’ is due to be published in Britain in February 2004.

”Barbara Nadel

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