A GUMUSLUK UTOPIA
“The Gumusluk Academy set a goal to become a thought farm where arts, philosophy and science could meet the nature. The Academy did not wish to be a school issuing certificates, on the contrary, it aimed to become an independent ecol where various disciplines came together and produced solutions to direct those who would be shaping the future of the world and Gumusluk Academy was designed to be kind of a moral market, a place of interaction where thinking is considered a life style with its working, research and education workshops, open air and enclosed meeting and exhibition halls, amphitheatre, Museum and library, the surrounding park, artificial lake and statue gardens, where thoughts would be sowed and ideas would be harvested”
This is what you read when you surf into Gumusluk Academy website or read one of their brochures. These words sound nice but at the same time there is something that stirs your mind in these words, reminds you of the antique age philosophy schools where ideas have been developed, reflecting today.
Such thoughts in mind, we arrived at Gumusluk Academy and started a relaxed chat with Mr Ahmet Filmer, the founding director of Gumusluk Academy Trust, next to the lake amongst various flora around. Although Mr Filmer surprised us when he said that the thought farm couldn’t quite achieve its aims, at the same time we admired his determination and hopefulness.
Ahmet Bey, why was Gumusluk Academy set up and why in specifically Bodrum Gumusluk?
I re-located from Germany to Turkey in 1984 and settled in Bodrum. I found this piece of land. I didn’t have the idea of setting up an Academy then. We had founded Greens Party in Bodrum. Later on ideas about the life and production farm started to take shape in my mind. Having seen that there was a great problem about the quality of people, I believed that such a project should be initiated.
The expression” lack of quality in people” is a bit harsh.
Yes it is very difficult to find refined people. We wanted this place to be a place for those who placed value in thoughts. We need refined people.
When you say refined people, obviously the first type to come to mind is those with the identity of an enlightened person, people who have an accumulated knowledge. In relation to that, did the Academy achieve its goals? Have you had enough refined people meet the Academy?
Partly. The fact is we couldn’t succeed.
But when you said “a place where the thinking people meet”, I imagined many intellectuals, gathered around this magnificent lake producing valuable ideas about important matters…
Our intellectuals don’t like to be seen around. Our goal was to become an independent ecol where various disciplines come together and produce solutions to direct those who would be directing the future of the world. Who is going to shape the future? Politicians, aren’t they? But, as you said our “enlightened intellectuals” don’t like to be seen around. We didn’t really have Exchange of information as you have suggested. I must repeat we couldn’t succeed in this. But, our’s is a thousand year mission. This is just the beginning.
Latife Tekin * in one her interviews has apparently suggested that there were financial difficulties from time to time. Apart from some of those visitors not even paying their telephone bills, do you have any other financial difficulties?
What can I say? If that is what Latife said, that must be true. We are trying to survive on donations. We don’t have rich people such as Koc or Sabanci supporting us. Our main sponsor is Garanti Bank has helped and supported us immensely. But, working capital is a must; as I said we survive on those donations.
What is the profile of those visitors? We have an enormous population of youth. Although it is widely believed that we have a depolitized youth, I am really curious if there are any young people who come here with projects?
No, there weren’t any projects brought forward. There are a lot of volunteers. We did many good deeds with the young people, some of them made a lot of contributions. Of course there are those who think of this place as a school. We get people who says that they want to send their children to our school and yet others who are just curious. We are sick and tired of taking people around. We tell them we have a web site but. But apart from those who contribute nothing, we also get people who are helpful. They make contributions when they see our lack of means. We even get people who help us in gardening and cleaning.
You describe the Academy as a place where art, nature and man meet. Never mind the intellectuals meeting; did the Academy succeed in establishing a dialogue with the locals? Or is it detached from both the local administration and people?
Well, that you must ask the people. I am not sure if I could suggest that our interaction with the locals is very positive. The head official of the district sometimes drops in. The governor has helped. He obtained marbles for us. It wasn’t too bad. And once we had a mini bus full of people from Gumusluk. They were curious and decided to pay a visit. We offered them tea and soon they left. Some of the artists living in the area sometimes drop in.
When we say Gumusluk Academy, Latife Tekin, an important name in Turkish literature comes to one’s mind. No question about it, the Literature House Project also sounds exciting like other projects. What did the circles of literature have to say about this, what is their reaction to the project?
(Ahmet Bey extends his arms and laughs...) Look at my hands; I am the porter and mechanic in this business. I do the heavy work. Latife Tekin is a media personality and it is normal that her name is associated with the Academy. She takes care of the press.
The circles of Literature are positive. They come around. We had important personalities such as İlhan Berk, Hilmi, Yavuz, Leyla Erbil, Fusun Akatlı visit us. Selin Çağlayan, who published Israel Dictionary before, is here now and is preparing the Palestine Dictionary. Those who come here generally come as visitors. We couldn’t establish the thought farm. Meaningless chat is carried out and we get nowhere. Those who come from Anatolia exchange ideas more than the others. We are going to bring Turkish and Middle Eastern architects together in October. We will try to bring those ideas together.
And you said you are not in a hurry…
No. We are not in a hurry at all. This is a long term mission. We set up the sub structure and we invite people to fill in the empty spaces.
What has been done up until now and what kind of projects do you have in mind for the future?
We organised concerts. There were important workshops in Arts, sculpture and ceramic area. We had a lot of participation in the area of Literature. Film shows attracted interest. Soon we are going to start a ceramics course. We have quite a demand for the course. A traditional lathing course will be carried out 2 days per week 4 hours per day by Nural and Cem Sentunali in a workshop environment. We have a great Project that we want to start. A school of Philosophy Project. Oruç Aruoba will be coming. But we are in financial difficulty and this project requires serious investment. We intend not to charge those who attend for a year. It is a long term Project. But when you make the calculations, costs for a person for a year is seven thousand YTL at the least.
On of your targets is to turn Bodrum into the Cultural Center of Mediterranean. How will that be achieved?
Starting from Bodrum, we want to research the ecological, archaeological, historical and cultural make up of the Aegean region, and to set up a Local Research Institute and Ethnographic Museum. We have an ecology project also, regarding Bodrum vegetation. It is my duty to set up the sub structure ad I am currently doing that. We have started the initiative. We requested permission to turn the Karakaya Mosque in Gumusluk into an Ethnographical Museum. It is rather difficult to interact with the bureaucracy, thus we couldn’t get too far in that. We asked for an authority, we suggested that we could manage the Museum and find finances if necessary to no avail…
Interview by Meliha Celik