Collections: Kimberly Hart - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Village and Marriage Rituals in Turkey (2000-2001)

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Hatice dances with her groom and future in-laws in Orselli Village, Turkey, 2001. Image from video © Kimberly Hart.

The collection depicts rituals of marriage in western Turkey. It includes stages of the public, village-based rituals including the söz "promise," nişan "engagement," and düğün "marriage." The footage depicts village rituals, but not the nikah (Islamic marriage ritual), which is private. Marriage rituals have changed over time and in relation to a desire for consumer goods, greater wealth, a turn to orthodox practice (thereby eliminating "folk" rituals of the past), and the commercialization of weaving.

The villagers were nomads in the past. Interestingly, they are not proud of this heritage and most denied knowledge of being "Yörük." Yet, they live like settled nomads. The houses of the elderly generation are one-room, which resemble, in interior allocation of space and goods, a tent. The economy is based on sheep herding and its byproducts: carpets and cheese. Other than a few households, which have herds of over one hundred, most families have a few sheep, a cow, and a few invest in cattle. They cobble together income from animals (from selling milk and occasionally a calf), wages from carpet weaving, cheese making, and field labor. In an attempt to make village life economically sustainable, they participated in founding a women's carpet weaving cooperative in the early 1980's, with the help from foreign intellectuals, Harald Böhmer and Josephine Powell.

Textiles play an important role in the village, but the use of textiles has changed since the commercialization of weaving. Village homes were once furnished with textiles: sacks, bags, pillows, kilims and carpets. As weaving was commercialized, it became too expensive to pursue for home furnishing. At the same time, villagers began to desire manufactured goods and self-standing furniture. As a result, young women and their future mothers-in-law turned away from weaving for the trousseau to embroidering, tatting, crocheting and knitting decorative goods to beautify a bride's new home. The cooperative has raised the level of village household income. At marriage, young couples are endowed with gold, goods, and a new, fully-furnished home. Footage from the engagement ceremony depicts the bride being given gold, cash, and textiles from female relatives.

The footage on the düğün or wedding ceremony shows how villagers have retained structural components of ritual practice. Although they added the "söz" or promise ceremony from urban practice, they retained engagement, and the basic rituals of the düğün: feasting, female dancing, applying and later washing henna on the bride, and the bride's ritual departure from her natal family. Folk music, folk dance, costume and marriage plays are absent. Instead, brides dress in white nylon dresses purchased in the market. They dance with their friends to cassette tapes of Turkish or Arab dance music. Also depicted is the long prayer service, the mevlut, which has replaced male dancing and wedding plays. The tapes are historically important, showing how rural people have changed practices to orient themselves toward an interpretation of modernity.

This collection has not yet been peer reviewed but it is available online in the EVIA Project Archive.

Kimberly Hart is an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo State College. As a social-cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, specializing on Turkey, she has published on ideologies of modernity, tradition and memory, material culture, arranged marriage, and piety. Her dissertation is on the agency of women, interpretations of modernity and transformations in the local economy based on a women's carpet weaving cooperative in a village in western Turkey. Her award winning ethnographic film, "A Wedding in the Yuntdag," is based on footage collected during fieldwork (2000-2001). It has been screened at film festivals and universities in the US, Canada, and Turkey. "Yapak/Winter Wool" has been screened at conferences on the Middle East and at the Textile Society of America. Her current research is on Sunni Islamic orthodoxies and Islamic modernity movements in Turkey.

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