Ebru: Reflections on water, Ayse Gül Altinay
Ebru is the search for a new language to make cultural diversity in Turkey visible and intelligible. Emerging from Attila Durak’s long journey of curiosity, passion, and hard work, its main reference is to an art form that offers infinite possibilities of reflecting on life through water. An ebru artist creates his or her drawing on water and then transfers this “floating” artwork onto paper. Being water-based, an ebru connotes fluidity, movement, connectedness, permeability, and contingency.* As such, it is a metaphor that offers a promising alternative to others, such as “mosaic” or “quilt,” when thinking through the new and old dilemmas of cultural politics at the turn of the century. How can one recognize cultural diversity without imprisoning cultures and identities into fixed, essentialized entities? Is it possible to engage histories of violence without reinforcing blindness to the dynamics of interaction, dialogue, and exchange? Can one mourn for loss and avoid creating a sense of nostalgic purity and innocence at the same time? What tools do we have for rethinking the past without silencing the present and the future? “Ebru” as a metaphor, which neither starts nor ends with this book, represents the search for alternatives to the limited perspectives of assimilation and multiculturalism alike.
* The actual technique of making ebru is more complex. Colors are normally mixed on a separate plate, but the design is given on water. Reference to such concepts as fluidity and permeability should not be read as literal descriptions of the ebru technique.
Cultural politics at the turn of the century.
The last quarter of the 20th century was marked by two simultaneous, yet conflicting, developments. On the one hand, “culture” and “identity” came to define local, national, and international politics probably more than ever.