Feature: Türkiye's handcrafted silverwork on brink of extinction

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 24, 2023
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by Zeynep Cermen

ISTANBUL, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Sabri Demirci, a silver artisan from Istanbul, has recently been designing pieces that reflect the essence of agriculture in human life.

He placed long wheat grains on a round platform and installed several children playing musical instruments between them. "I deliberately used children figures because they symbolize our future," he told Xinhua, adding sadly: "I can also tell you, our profession is now one with no future."

Demirci's atelier is in the historic Kalcilar Han or Kalcilar Inn, once a center of attraction filled with silver artisans who produced pieces for the entire Ottoman Empire, later for Türkiye and abroad.

But the craft is on the verge of extinction in this inn and across the country.

According to Demirci, the country has lost its once well-established and widespread silver culture.

He said in the past, almost every Turkish household used to have a piece of silver in their home, either candlesticks, bowls, mirrors or cutlery, and "these were all customized."

In his opinion, rising costs and industrialization are driving the craft to extinction.

"Now, everyone buys factory products," he pointed out. "But if you put the products from industrial factories side by side, you will see that not a single micron is different because they all come out in a standardized way. Then what happens? I don't think that product has a soul."

Another problem for Demirci's sector is the lack of interest in the craft among new generations.

"The sector is gradually disappearing because the masters cannot find anyone from the younger generations to train and pass on the profession to the next generation," he said.

Until a few years ago, Demirci and his 10 employees barely met demand. Today, only he and his brother remain.

The history of Kalcilar Han, located in the ancient part of Istanbul in the Fatih district within the compound of the Grand Bazaar, dates back to the 18th-century Ottoman era.

"Once upon a time, there were only silver ateliers, silver shops and many skilled artisans in this inn," another artisan, Arman Tas, told Xinhua in his shop, filled with various shiny silver pieces.

"But unfortunately, 60 to 70 percent of the shops, maybe more, have become foreign exchange offices," he said, "The way things are going, we are also going to have to leave soon."

Sahin Ulutas, another silver artisan in the industry since 1976, also lamented the gradual decline in his business. "Our art is slowly melting away," said Ulutas. "It's excruciating that we couldn't make our children learn this profession and carry on our art." Enditem

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