Turkish Cultural Center - Queens
Sunnyside / December 3, 2010 / Queens Buzz. I just returned from a visit to the Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside. I went there to view the Turkish movie, entitled Separation, which had English subtitles. The movie is highly philosophical and based on the writings of an ancient 13th century Turkish / Persian scholar, Mevlevi.
Foreign Films In Queens - Turkish Cultural Center
The tale is set in 1798 in what is today Istanbul, Turkey. The story is about a retired diplomat / ambassador who had served the Sultan by advising him on European affairs. The ambassador, Dede Efendi, is aided by a young scribe from whose perspective the story is told. The ambassador is drawn back into the world of diplomacy and intrigue because the French, under General Napoleon Bonaparte, are about to declare war on Egypt. One of Dede’s former peers calls upon him to inform the Sultan in an effort to pre-empt the attack and avoid a war. Framed within this tale of diplomacy, is a love story between a doctor who attends to the ambassador, and one of the servants in the empress’s entourage. The photo to your left shows the good doctor in the Turkish movie Separation.
Click here to read the rest of our report about the Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside Queens, including photos / slide show.
Turkish Cultural Center - Sunnyside
Foreign Films / Turkish Film - Separation
Continued / Sunnyside / December 3, 2010 / Queens Buzz. The film’s title, Separation, has many meanings that are revealed as the story unfolds. There’s the separation between the young scribe and the ambassador following the ambassador’s death. Dede describes this separation as no different than the separation one experiences from the sun at the end of the day. Then there’s the separation that describes the void between the good doctor and the young maiden. They both quietly long for one another. And yet, due to the their positions and the customs of the time, they are unable to speak about their feelings to one another. Dede tells us that, “Unspoken love is the most illuminating.” The photo to your right was taken from the Turkish movie Separation.
Eventually, war breaks out and the good doctor is sent to Egypt. The fair maiden is given her freedom by the empress and we are left guessing whether the two lovers ever meet again. Poetic verses, filled with meaning, are woven into the scenes of the movie. Philosophy, the arts, history and diplomacy were also incorporated into the story, leaving one with much to think about after the movie ended.
The film had the rhythm, exquisite look and the nuanced feel of a 1930’s or 1940’s American movie. The costumes were excellent, the writing superb, the cinematography illuminating and the acting a worthy complement to the entire production. So as not to set the wrong expectation, this is just one example of their monthly movies. They also feature action / thrillers which are likely more similar to James Bond than one written by Jane Austen. The photo above shows the empress's court.
Turkish History - Byzantine & Ottoman Empires
The Turks ruled the Eastern branch of the Roman Empire starting around 400 AD. At the time the eastern branch of the Roman Empire was called Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire. Between 1200 and 1300 it became the Ottoman Empire, which gasped its last breath during World War I. During that time Constantinople, which is modern day Istanbul, and the surrounding area [Turkey] was an influential seat of culture and learning. Hence it’s likely one can learn a great deal from studying Turkish culture. The photo to your left shows modern day Istanbul, crossroads between Europe and the Middle East.
Turkish Cultural Center - Sunnyside & Queens NY
Following the film I had an opportunity to converse with Oguztan Turan who is the president of the Turkish Cultural Center in Queens. He informed me that the purpose of the center is to explore Turkish culture within the framework of being an American citizen.
Turkey, for centuries if not millenia, has been where East [Asia] meets West [Europe]. It has been and continues to be a crossroads for culture. This quickly becomes apparent as one delves more deeply into Turkish culture. During my conversation with Oguztan we headed off on a tangent about from which linguistic branch the modern day Turkish language originated.
The Turkish Language - In Queens
Modern day Turkish is not a romance language [European] nor is it a Semitic language [Arabic]. It’s a unique language that may have its origins in 12th century Mongolia and appears to share its linguistic origins with many of the former southern U.S.S.R. republics such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tazhikistan and Afghanistan. In fact the movie was based on the writings of one of the great authors of the 13th century, Mevlev, who wrote about tolerance and understanding and self-actualization through love.
Turkey is also the home to a great deal of art, including centuries old architectural marvels, such as the Blue Mosque. The mosque is actually a converted Christian Church, as Turkey was also home to Byzantium, which for hundreds of years was the seat of the orthodox branch of the Christian religion. In fact it was the Byzantine emperor who first made Christianity the official religion of the empire.
Turkish Culture - Art Classes, Foreign Films & Cuisine
Oguztan told me how his organization hosts programs, such as showing Turkish films for free every month, in order to keep alive their cultural heritage and to share it with the Queens community. The general public is welcome to most programs, although occasionally some programs are oriented to a single gender.
The Turkish Cultural Center periodically sponsors classes that enable people to learn some of the ancient Turkish arts. For example Oguztan showed me examples of Ebru art. Ebru is an ancient Turkish art process, whereby one puts a number of marble stones into a tray filled with water. Colors are applied to the rocks and a thin layer of paper is then pressed upon the rocks. From this comes a beautiful work of art that has a modern abstract art appearance.
Ottoman Cuisine In Sunnyside & Queens
The Ottoman Empire was also famous for its culinary delights [see our review on the Turkish Grill in Sunnyside]. The empire came into contact with all sorts of other cuisines and cultures. Through these interactions, as well as through the empire’s own inventiveness, many wonderful culinary creations came using a variety of foods that came from many parts of the ancient world. The night I visited the TCC, volunteers had prepared an impromptu meal for us to eat [see photo to right].
The Turkish Cultural Center celebrates its cuisine by hosting events such as Manti Nights. Manti’s are dumplings similar in nature to the Italian pasta raviolis. And from December 15 to January 15 they select a date to host Noah’s Pudding Night. Noah’s Pudding is a Turkish creation that includes fruits, nuts and grains in a pudding. It sounded to me like it was ancient granola. And of course there’s Coffee Night, wherein one can sip real Turkish coffee blends with real Turkish Americans.
Turkish American MultiCultural Educational Foundation - TAMEF
And there’s more. I could go on about Henna Night or the shadow puppet shows, but perhaps you should venture a visit to the Turkish Cultural Center on your own.
The Turkish Cultural Center originated in 2003 as TAMEF which stood for Turkish American Multi-Cultural Educational Foundation. Nearly eight years later the organization has 23 locations spread along the eastern seaboard including in Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn. TAMEF renamed itself last year to streamline its name to the TCC which stands for Turkish Cultural Center. The Queens office has a membership of about 1500 and going forward we’ll post some of their events in the Queens Events section of the site and they may post some classes in the Members Calendar. Birdahaki sefer kadar [until next time].
Photos Of The Turkish Cultural Center
The following is a slide show of photos of the Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside Queens. Click here to go directly into the photo album where you can double click to view larger photos.
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