FILIZ OTYAM
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FILIZ OTYAM

A LIFE INFUSED WITH ART

Interviewer: Sibel Atasoy
Place: Antalya
Date: September 2015

Gallery

Interview

Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m better known as Fikret Otyam’s wife as we were together for 41 years. I married Fikret 41 years ago and before that I was studying abroad. New York is a city that I love. I studied interior architecture there. After marrying Fikret our aim was to return to Turkey and live somewhere in Anatolia. We settled down in Antalya, Gazipaşa and we liked it very much. It was Gazipaşa’s reputation that attracted us at first. We lived there for 25 years. We worked and created a lot during our 25 years at the foot of Selinus castle. I learned how to weave from the elderly ladies living there. Women were spinning cotton and wool shorn from their own animals. The women were producing their entire household items themselves. They were weaving everyone’s clothes and household linen on these looms, including their own shrouds. This affected me very much. I worked there for many years. I have woven for 30 years, which was a very arduous and tiring work. Fikret continued painting and opened his own exhibitions. We always created and worked together. During the day we were busy with our own work, but in the evenings we would sit around the dinner table and fiercely critique each other. We shed a light on ourselves and tried to find an outlet. Later on his health problems began to emerge. We left Gazipaşa and moved to Antalya’s Geyikbayırı village. There we had many animals as well such as goats, chickens, roosters… We spent these years altogether as a family. Fikret’s health deteriorated in the last few years. He was going in and out of intensive care until that fateful day of August 8, 2015. He held Alevi Bektashi beliefs in great esteem and taught me a lot in this regard during our marriage. He wrote several studies and books about this topic. He discovered that they were a very progressive and enlightened people. Now cultural centres are being opened in Fikret’s honour. Alevi and Sunni friends accompanied him on his last journey. His friends arranged his funeral and organised everything.

What was it like being married to Fikret Otyam?
They asked me this question before. I always saw it as an adventure. He had a very colourful life. He was someone who really liked to share a part of himself with others. We travelled a lot in Anatolia and we had many trips abroad. They were mostly business trips, but were spent like vacations.

As a woman from the big city, what was it like to move to Antalya?
Fikret wanted to come here and settle in the countryside. If I was going to be with him, we would go through everything together.  I never told myself that I wouldn’t be able to make it here. You can do anything once you set your mind to it.

What is it like to live as a woman in Antalya?
Living in Antalya was difficult at first. Ultimately it is a provincial city, but there were many great changes over the years. The Golden Orange Festival has evolved a lot. Apart from that, music festivals, theatres and associations were established. In 2010, as the Antalya City Council we decided to get together and do something about women getting killed. It was agreed upon to erect a monument to draw attention to this issue and a competition was launched. Meriç Hızal’s project won the competition, which was only open to women sculptors. Consequently, the Red Scarf (Al Yazma) monument was built. We raised half of the funds needed for the monument. The rest was provided by Muratpaşa Municipality. The memorial bears the inscribed names of murdered women. The wind entering through the hollowed out names creates a humming sound. The names of the women are reflected onto the ground when sunlight hits the monument. You’re faced with a full reckoning in that place. At night the lighting from the inside gives it a spiritual air. This monument was erected in Bayındır Park in the Bayındır neighbourhood. We wanted a more central location, but we were told that this is a touristic city and that this monument shouldn’t be thrust into people's faces. We explained to them that is a vital issue that had to be discussed. I wish that this monument would serve as an example and build in other cities, so that women could see that they aren’t abandoned.

Have you had any difficult moments in your long marriage?
Every relationship has its difficulties. Since Fikret was suffering from diabetes for many years he had sudden outbursts. He was quiet negligent in that respect and whenever he fell ill I would take him to the doctor. Especially in the last few years I served as his chauffeur, assistant, cook and friend. I also helped him with his writings and edited his texts. I tried to make up for each shortcoming. On the one hand I continued to work. We always held our exhibitions together.

What advice would you like to give women?
Instead of waiting for the right conditions to produce and create, you should seize every opportunity to work on something. If you wait nothing will ever happen. As a productive member of society you’re setting an example to the people around you and will facilitate their lives.

What are your thoughts about the Antalya Women Museum?
It’s a very nice project. I hope it will be realised soon.
 
FILIZ OTYAM