#6 Isparta, gülüm!

One of the central themes of 'Funerary Life in Pisidia' is identity. Quite an abstract term and difficult to comprehend in all its facets, but also very much at the heart of all communities and individuals. Identities – surely, people do not have a single identity – exist on various levels of society, from nations to villages, from sport clubs to individuals, and may be centred around a diversity of social aspects including ethnicity, family, gender, profession, religion, and ideology. Sometimes, a certain identity is deliberately chosen, sometimes a person may not have the slightest impact on acquiring one of his identities. Some identities continue to exist for several years or even centuries, but, even then, they are subject of transformations and modifications in the course of time. Other identities simply come and go, within a split second. In all its diversity, ‘identity’ is always both inclusive and exclusive; it is about both social bonds and social distinctions at the same time. Because ‘identity’ is at the core of being, it constitutes a highly delicate matter. Even in a community as diverse as the Dutch one, you do not make any friends if you carefully put the existence of a strictly delineated Dutch identity to discussion. The present Queen of the Netherlands, Maxima Zorreguieta, originating from Argentina, – did I just say diverse community? – knows all about it.

The speech of Queen of the Netherlands, Maxima Zorreguieta 

"'identity' is always both inclusive and exclusive"

In the 70s of the 20th century, Turkey experienced a turbulent period, the wounds of which still have not completely healed. The army actively interfered in Turkish politics several times, and members of oppositional parties assaulted each other. It was during this time that Süleyman Demirel started his political career. He became prime minister for several years and in 1993 he managed to become president of Turkey. Süleyman Demirel grew up in a small village called Islamköy, some 20 kilometres northeast of Isparta. In his time as a powerful figure, he actively supported his hometown and the surrounding region. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, besides Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, you will find the name of Süleyman Demirel all around the city of Isparta. The airport and the university still carry his name and, when entering the city from the north, a statue of Süleyman Demirel salutes you. Clearly, his legacy is kept alive by the city and the district he originated from. In other words: the legacy of Süleyman Demirel has been integrated into the distinct civic identity of Isparta.

View of Isparta

Besides highlighting the relation to the former prime minister and president of Turkey, Isparta, as a city and community, also presents itself as ‘the city of roses’. Since time immemorial, the area surrounding the city is renowned for the production of these flowers. For this reason, the city has decided to place enormous, plastic sculptures of roses throughout the city. Such a sculpture also adorns the entrance to the ethnographic museum. Admittedly, these sculptures are close to hideous, but they do demonstrate the willingness of the municipal government to distinguish the city from other places in Turkey. In Isparta you will also find multiple pink coloured shops, where people can buy products like rose parfume, rose oil, and key hangers shaped like a rose. All these shops, run by individual citizens, stimulate the idea of Isparta being ‘the city of roses’. In this way, both governmental and civil initiatives actively emphasise the civic identity of Isparta. Of course, this is just part of the story: did you know that Isparta is also famous for its carpets (halı) and its white cherries (beyaz kiraz)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A typical shop at Isparta

"both governmental and civil initiatives actively emphasise the civic identity of Isparta"

Isparta is not the only Turkish city identifying itself with a particular commodity. Almost every city has its own distinctive fruit, vegetable, textile, or any other kind of product. Therefore, one might want to create a map of Turkey, differentiating the various cities according to the product they are famous for. So, that’s what I did (thanks to the IAS-members for the information):


 Map showing several cities in Turkey and their corresponding typical commodity

Finally, we move from roses to tulips. Nowadays, as a nation, the Netherlands is eager to present itself as ‘the country of tulips’. You may even say: tulips are part of the national identity. Touristic brochures often showcase large fields of red, yellow, pink, blue and purple tulips. This cultivation of the tulip in the Netherlands has its origins in the 17th century. This century experienced a period of so-called ‘tulipmania’, in which people paid ridiculously high prices for tulip bulbs and tulips were a much-loved subject for paintings and drawings. Still, prior to the second half of the 16th century, Dutch people had not even heard of a tulip before. The tulip only made its way to Europe after an Austrian ambassador first laid his eyes on the flower whilst visiting the ruler of a certain land. Apparently, he was so impressed by the beauty of this flower that he decided to take the tulip to his home country, after which it made its way to the Netherlands as well. The ruler this ambassador paid a visit to was the Ottoman emperor Muhteşem Süleyman, and the land is modern-day Turkey.

Nowadays, tulip production has found its way back into Turkey