Anadolu Kültür has been founded as a non-profit initiative in 2002 by several people from different areas of fine and commercial art, business and civil society organisations with the aim of promoting shared production of cultural and art activities in cities across Turkey and abroad. The founding members believe that “working through the medium of culture and arts can enable Turkey to become a more democratic, pluralistic and free country” and cultural and artistic exchange will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and the elimination of prejudices, which destroy social cohesion in Turkey. The main aims of this initiative are to build bridges between people from different religions, cultural and ethnic backgrounds through culture and art, contribute to regional initiatives, which are interested in supporting cultural diversity and human rights and strengthening cooperation among them.
To reach its aims, Anadolu Kültür carries out work under the following four headings:
Arts and Cultural Dialogue in Anatolia organises events such as exhibitions, film screenings, performances, concerts, public talks and art workshops; and also long-term culture and art projects in collaboration with different initiatives and non-governmental organisations.
Cultural Diversity and Human Rights arranges, amongst others, photography exhibitions that emphasize the multicultural structure of cities, performances and activities that reflect Armenian cultural heritage, screenings and debates supporting Kurdish cinema and publishing bilingual children’s books.
Cultural Collaboration with Europe covers projects that support collaborative activities between cities in Europe and Turkey in a diverse spectrum of fields including performance, art workshops with children, literature research, contemporary art exhibitions and projects on cultural heritage.
Arts and Cultural Dialogue with Armenia initiates activities for artistic and cultural cooperation between civil society organisations, independent artists and academic institutions from Turkey and Armenia since 2005, aiming to consolidate friendly relations between the two countries and enhance mutual understanding.
Anadolu Kültür consists of a Chairman, a Vice Chairman, seven Board Members, six project coordinators and three project assistants, besides a consultant. The initiative also has 30 employees and nearly 200 volunteers. Serra Özhan Yüksel, who is a project coordinator, argues that ‘‘the decisions are often taken collectively with beneficiaries and participants can actively involve all the activities and decision-making processes”. The initiative works in cooperation with governmental bodies and local authorities. It also collaborates with the private sector, as well as national and international NGOs, which are interested in cultural issues and art. The financial resources of the initiative consist of grants from EU-based projects, donations from foreign countries and from temporary sponsorships.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Anadolu Kültür especially works for building bridges between people from different background and identity. The initiative imagines a society free from prejudices and tolerant towards distinct communities. Its understanding of diversity is mainly based on cultural differences and human rights to practice cultural, religious and ethnic differences. In this respect, it pays special importance to diverse groups’ activities and helps their events (i.e., cultural activities of both Kurdish and Armenian communities). Besides, it supports projects on human rights such as film screenings, exhibitions, workshops and conferences by giving specific attention to children and young people.
Main factors influencing success or failure
Since its foundation, Anadolu Kültür has undertaken several successful projects such as the publication of bilingual children’s books, which aimed Kurdish and Armenian languages to be included into the curriculum of primary schools. The main objective of this project is to create consciousness for school-aged children of the diverse nature of their community. Although the project was not supported by the state and many people thought that it a big risk to highlight issues on ethnic languages, the project became an important source for discussions on democracy in recent years. Besides, Anadolu Kültür pinpointed the problems of Armenians and other ethnic minorities and organised activities that aimed people with different identities and ethnic background to know each other’s daily life and culture. Therefore, it is possible to say that risk taking is an important success factor of Anadolu Kültür, besides the support and dedication of the people who believe that increasing tolerance of different groups to each other is the most important issue in Turkey. However, Anadolu Kültür has faced several failure factors, particularly also the negative stance of the state or local governments and legal constraints in all its working fields. On the other hand, the higher level of annual income compared to other governance arrangements, namely €750.000 per annum, enables it to carry its wide range of activities.
Anadolu Kültür is one of the initiatives that emphasises the positive features of diversity by providing support to culture and arts events in Anatolian cities. Through its activities, it tries to enhance communities’ tolerance against diverse cultures. In this respect, it explicitly addresses the problems of some ethnic groups such as Kurds and Armenians and supports their organisations, projects and activities in order to increase their visibility in the society. With the support of the European Union, Anadolu Kültür participates in ‘the Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process’ programme, which is expected to contribute to the resolution of fundamental problems between these two countries via certain collaborations in different fields such as economy, social, cultural, education and arts.