We caught up with Sunay Akın at his office in Göztepe, formerly known as the Giraffe Garden, on the same street as the Toy Museum. The Toy Museum is undoubtedly one of Turkey’s unique cultural values, with its ever-growing collection and design that amazes everyone. However, Sunay Akın is a versatile creator who writes books, gives stage performances (he says for himself, “I am a critic”) and prepares documentaries, in addition to establishing and protecting this museum, whose last electricity bill is 13,000 TL, and trying to keep it alive despite all the difficulties. The reason we caught up with him is to talk about the documentary “In the Light of Knowledge: Ayvalık” that he shot. Even as we sit down to talk about the documentary, which can be viewed on Youtube, the conversation opens up and the conversation evolves into a day where we don’t understand how time passes.
Photos: Vedat Arik
– Let’s start with the story of your documentary about Ayvalık. How was the idea born, what was the starting point for your documentary?
In fact, it’s an idea that arose between me and my son Ali Ozan a few years ago. Many films and documentaries have been made and are being made about cities… But Barış Manço is always remembered. The documentaries that began with the number “1” added by Barış Manço to the population section written on the panel at the entrance of the cities he visited, left a completely different taste on everyone’s lips. I’ve always thought of making programs about a city and a region in itself. We started this overseas with Ali Ozan. We went to Amsterdam, we explained. But while we were talking, we also talked about Cavit Cav. In other words, as in the previous documentaries, we did not talk about the place only from its own culture… We also told that one of our first national cyclists, Cavit Cav, cycled in the Games Amsterdam Olympics in 1928. And similarly there is a poem by Can Yücel about jumping on a bike and going to Amsterdam. We have built our program on these stories and these texts. Then, for example, we shot Nuremberg. Nuremberg is very important in my life, because the idea of a toy museum first came to mind in this city.
– True, there is also a very nice toy museum there.
Yes, when I visited this museum 30 years ago, I was very impressed by this museum and I regretted that my country did not have this knowledge, I was envious. I do not envy; Jealousy is a matter of people not believing in themselves. But I envy, my fat is melting. Here we have always talked about Nürnberg with this toy story. But in doing that, there was always a ukte in us; Why don’t we talk about a city in our own country? We have always wanted to talk about Turkey with better equipped, more qualified and more professional masters, with directors who have mastered this profession, with its light and sound artists. Then the offer actually came from Komili. They called us and said: “We are having a harvest festival, we want to explain it in the language of Sunay Akın, the culture of the olive tree, the history of the olive tree, Ayvalık”… They told us have invited, so we took this ukte in us that I was talking about this road. We introduced them to our dating. We said, ‘Let’s do it like this’, and they said, ‘Great idea’, ‘That’s what we want anyway’. We sat down, talked, saw they were sincere. We worked very hard when we got there. We were greeted with great hospitality. Interestingly, we walked the same path, without knowing them, before we even got together.
– The documentary has a fiction that mixes with art, doesn’t it?
Certainly. Look, I want to create a work, a work. What is art? That’s just saying it’s like that, isn’t it? In doing so, I wanted to portray Ayvalık entirely through painters and poets. That’s what I did. Sabahattin Ali is also there, Abidin Dino is also there.
– The olive is a value that has a very important place in our geography. Our olive oil production is also not underestimated, but it feels like we are not the place we deserve in the world in that sense.
We’re not, because look, a high school was opened there, about that. But more than half of the students are over 40 years old. Some of them went there later. This shows that young people do not tend towards agriculture, agriculture.
– You are right, but there is also that; You know, they want to open their olive groves to mining. I mean, how can young people invest their future here when the agricultural policy of the country is like this?
Because unfortunately the State does not care about agricultural policies, it shows. In other words, it highlights what is called mining. Of course, mining is also necessary. You know, they always say, ‘Can you be against the bridge?’ Of course, we are in favor of the bridge, but I would say yes to a bridge with the guarantee that it will not harm nature and that its surroundings will not be open to development later. Because we saw it in Istanbul, when you build a bridge, it’s not just a bridge. Its surroundings are open to development, and the green spaces and forest areas that surround it are destroyed and massacred. Let’s come to the olives. Let’s not forget the great slaughter and destruction in the Kaz Mountains regarding mineral exploration. Olive is also one of them. Today, nearly 80% of Turkey’s land and forest agricultural areas have become mining areas, or even 90%. Do we want a forest, do we want healthy food, what do we need? Is this what we need to be nourished? It is agricultural policy. And in a healthy way. Do we need oxygen, fresh air, or do we need a desert, poisoned and plundered, like in horror thrillers, movies about the future, people trying to live in a poisoned and destroyed world… being transformed into it? It’s so simple.
“MAKING AN OLIVE MINE FIELD IS NOT INTELLIGENT”
– It’s a very disastrous sight, but as long as we keep mining, it seems like an inevitable end…
Because in our country, mining is not done in an advanced and advanced way, as it should be. Not mining, but mining has protective rules, ethical values. We cannot trust the ethical values of those who govern us. We don’t believe they care about society and the future of this country, so we can trust their decisions. All the troubles are there. Now look, the olive groves have been declared mining areas. Look at the nonsense in this sentence. If there is a person who will say this, we should seek the help of science here. What is it, psychiatry… Because the person who says that has no mental health, my brother. Whoever said that, our friend needs treatment, so it’s too bad for him, he has kids too. We are with you until the end, he needs support, let’s win him too, let’s not lose him, can I explain? (Laughs)
Isn’t it difficult to keep the Toy Museum alive?
That’s why I need money anyway… To be able to do what I want to do… People don’t understand, they always tell me the same thing: ‘If you don’t no financial interest, why are you I do it?’ Look my friend, since I learned Turkish on my own at the age of 6, I loved literature and wrote and drew. I’m 60, I’ve always heard that. ‘There is no money in this business, no mara, why are you doing this?’ What’s wrong! What else can I say? I spend everything I earn, even what’s left of my family, in this museum. We’ve been up for 16-17 years, and I don’t want anyone’s support. But not to mention the support, they have always been a hindrance. Taxes, electricity, natural gas bills… There was a pandemic, this place was closed, and nobody came to ask: ‘You are alone, you are a pencil sharpener, how did you stay up?’ he… Why didn’t nobody ask? Where are they?
“YOU EVEN CHANGED THE SYSTEM”
– What do you think of youth? Do you think the intense pressure from the government intimidates them? Do you see hope for the future?
Young people are braver than all of us…because they have no umbilical cord to the past or the broken side of this system.
– Are you saying they are going to change the system?
They even changed it. They are not going to change, they have changed. What system are we talking about now? Youth means rootedness. Can a tree without roots stand? Now look at the young people, they are rejecting the mistakes that our generations have made, they are rejecting all of us. How nice… Young people don’t need us, let’s face it. We need their dreams. Youth is synonymous with dreams. And these young people have nothing to do with the system. They’re cleaner than all of us, they’re bubbly.
OUR WESTERN GRAVITY…
– Are there other cities like Ayvalık on which you would like to make a documentary?
There are. Hatay, for example… Hatay is holding an Expo this year, and with the suggestion of the brilliant person Lütfü Savaş, Mayor of Hatay, we will describe it again in the language of Sunay Akın. I also want to talk about Edirne. There are also some very interesting stories. For example, the story of painter Hasan Rıza from Edirne. While everyone was fleeing Karaağaç during the Balkan War, she was busy because Hasan Rıza, on the contrary, rushes to Karaağaç to save her paintings. There is a workshop and unfortunately he was killed there. And his grave is our westernmost grave. The westernmost grave in this country belongs to a painter who died trying to save his paintings from the war; Come on, don’t tell me now.
Sunay Akin – Emrah Kolukisa
THE CAT MUSEUM IS COMING
– You have another idea for a museum that you have been working with for a while, don’t you?
Yes, the Cat Museum. We are opening very soon, probably in May. Everything about the chat will be there. Cats from the history of fairy tales, games, toys and comics will come together for the first time under the roof of a museum. Besides, I work on another museum, the Snowman Museum… A museum on the environment, instilling a love of nature in children and telling about the climate. The climate crisis is very serious, if it continues like this, it will not snow in the future, my brother.