Turkish mural helps keep park protest spirit alive
By Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish artist on Saturday unveiled a two-story-high mural featuring those killed in protests two years ago over an Istanbul park that spiraled into nationwide demonstrations against the leadership of Tayyip Erdogan.
The 5-by-10-metre painting by Haydar Ozay was unveiled on the second anniversary of the protests that began as an effort to stop bulldozers from razing Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces of Istanbul, to build a shopping mall.
Unrest quickly spread across Turkey, a revolt against what protesters said was the increasing authoritarianism of Erdogan's decade-long rule.
The then prime minister accused a coalition of "anarchists, terrorists and vandals" of orchestrating the demonstrations.
Art was a central element of the protests, which erupted at the end of May 2013. Graffiti lampooning Erdogan and other spontaneous artistic expressions flourished during the weeks protesters occupied the park and the adjacent Taksim Square.
"People had felt so much pressure that there was a volcano-like explosion of creativity. Gezi was the perfect stage," said Ozay, 46, who knew the park from his childhood when his father was its gardener.
"Gezi has surprisingly transcended its own duration and is still unfolding, especially in art."
Ozay's massive, brightly colored work on canvas depicts figures familiar to protesters in swirling abstract brushstrokes. A woman in a red dress is tear-gassed; Berkin Elvan, who died aged 15 after he was hit in the head by a police gas canister, plays marbles. Continued...