MELT: Migration in Europe and Local Tradition.

İstanbul » Festival Renk Ahenk

Since Istanbul is a megacity made up of many districts, it is important to strengthen the cultural life and community spirit in its individual districts. Cihangir contains many traces of history as a result of the diverse migration flows and corresponding influences of a variety of local traditions, which have left their mark. The goal was to identify these traces, to recall the importance of arts and culture in maintaining vitality in a neighbourhood and to incorporate its inhabitants in activities.

In order to further expand these ambitions, the Cihangir Neighbourhood Association initiated the festival renk Ahenk within the scope of MELT. Its first edition took place in October 2008: for seven days, local and international artists met where the continents meet, under the name of "Harmony of the Colours" (the meaning of "Renk Ahenk"). The artists created, exhibited, worked, sang, played, acted, painted, danced, and discussed together. International musicians, drama and visual arts experts from the MELT partners were invited for a range of events including several workshops, panel discussions and performances. Most of the music and theatre performances were held at public places, thus involving the neighbourhood itself.

Parallel to the organisation of the festival, Cihangir Neighbourhood Association initiated an array of projects, which, after an initial research phase, moved into the phases of "experimenting" with and "giving visibility to" local features. Cooperation projects with local partner associations and offi cial bodies were agreed in order to embark on new routes, exchange common ideas and come into contact with the various communities.

Long-term projects launched in this spirit include the initiative for a "Local Historical Museum of Cihangir" and the foundation of a park to be used by the neighbourhood for cultural and social purposes, but also offering new space for children.

Renk Ahenk Festival also served to anchor the cultural meeting-point of Baz-Art – an open-air bazaar where local artists present and sell their works – as a regular activity. The festival production comprised the making of a documentary about Cihangir and a series of photographs portraying the people in Cihangir, which was displayed in the streets of the area, artistically commenting on its multi-ethnic character.

Renk Ahenk Festival served not only to give visibility to the existing activities concerning local traditions, but also to melt them with new and different traditions brought to Cihangir by the creative artists of the MELT partners. And it managed to alert the communities to new cultural projects and identifi ed existing areas of potential. The work with children from various neighbourhoods in culturally based workshops formed a particular aspect which will remain as one of the focal points of the Cihangir Neighbourhood Association after the conclusion of MELT.

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