I arrived in Turkiye with a backpack and two boxes—one full of my clothes and the other some books, determined to complete the manuscript that I felt was taking me forever to write. My plane from Stanstead landed in Antalya at around 5 in the evening. Once I’d claimed my baggage and stepped out into the wild humid air of the country, my adventure-keen spirit seemed more eager as if crossing over from the domestic to the feral. An author friend whom I met in Oxford, and with whom I volunteered at the Oxford Literary Festival, was at Arrivals waiting for me. Once we saw each other, he welcomed me with the traditional masculine greeting of a handshake that graduates into a hug. Greetings done with, he helped me with one of my boxes and led the way to a waiting tram.
Once I was settled in my hotel, I felt a slight relief from the anxiety of my new endeavour. Apart from a brief journey to Benin Republic, a francophone African country when I was younger, this was the first time I found myself thrust into a non-English-speaking country, an Islamic country no less. Before my friend left for his house, he admonished me to be mindful of my political conversations. Turkiye was in a critical political moment as the forthcoming elections were around the corner, and as such, the political climate was quite sensitive. Moreso, the Russian-Ukraine war was raging at its peak, there was an influx of both Russians fleeing compulsory drafting and Ukrainians fleeing the destruction to their lives and cities caused by Russian superior weapons.
His warnings were fair. He was an artist, and I supposed he understood that art without a conversation that bordered on politics or influenced politics was as good as no art. But what is art if it does not transform? and is the transformational power of art not embedded in politics and politics alone? I have always held the opinion that true art is political and politics at its pinnacle is artistic. One does not closely read about Napoleon Bonaparte and is blind to the artistic manner he waged war or even practiced statecraft.
Human society does not advance without art playing a transformational role.
But then, as with all things pragmatic, we must face the reality of things, and in this context, it is the raw truth that art cannot be propagated without the economic tool of capital. Grants, fellowship, prizes, awards, etc., etc. Because in the end, if the creator of art does not have his/her soul and body nourished, there will be no art. It is like milking a cow and not feeding the cow. So, a healthy cycle of consumption and production has to exist.
But beyond the pragmatic factor, there is a human factor. It is people with means, and who more often than not have an agenda or narrative that they want to be propagated, that will fund art. I believe no sensible human alive will fund his own demise, no government will sponsor its own destruction. Herein lies the question: knowing all these, how does the artist meander through these truths and hold fast to the integrity of his art? And as we know, art at its purest, art at its integral form, panders only to truth, not to an agenda.
Issue 35 attempts to answer this question. Carl Terver and Lou-Ellen Barkan furnish us with stories of compromise, grit, and resilience of the human spirit. Questions of existence abound, like in the essay by Brigita Orel, and poems after the Chinese Han dynasty poetic tradition by George Freek alongside those of Emma Kuli, Richard Hedderman, and JB Jonas help us ask profound questions about our human condition.
As I present issue 35 to you, I hope that you also in your own little and private way, be touched by the transformative power of art.