Dark Moon

The Dark Moon/Traces research project started in 2006 with the intention to create more awareness for the slave history of the Ottoman empire within the Afro-Turkish community, as well as to introduce their personal stories to a more international network.

After having documented the Afro-Turkish community for several years, Mustafa Olpak of the Afro-Turk Association and I came up with the idea to set up a studio during the Dana Bayram festivities in Torbali, Izmir, in 2009. During the event we made portraits of the visitors, which were subsequently used to start our archive. In return for letting us put their pictures on display, the people that were photographed could pick their portraits up for free.

Olpak and I further added to our archive by gathering images from private family collections, documented Turks of African descent in different cities and villages in the South-West of Turkey, and presented the private pictures together with the Dana Bayram portraits in several local and international projects and expositions from 2009 until 2012. The exhibition was on display in the trees of the public park in Izmir the very first time, and in the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam the very last time.

We decided to make a newspaper containing all the work. With the newspaper we could present our project within the art scene and at the same time we could hand it out to all the Afro-Turks who where interested. At the same with the exhibit in Holland we presented this newspaper at the Dana Bayram festivities in Izmir.

We wanted this project’s impact to surpass the art scene. In collaboration with UNESCO we were able to present our work in a more historical and academic setting. This created a lot of debate amongst the Turkish scholars.

In 2012 we combined everything, from the archival images to the newspaper, and turned it into a single exhibition for the Stedelijk Schiedam museum. The hidden Slave history of the Ottoman Empire finally made history.