THE FATİH QUARTER IN THE 1930S
TAHİRÜ’L-MEVLEVÎ (M. TAHİR OLGUN)

1- Gülbün Mesara who has been active in Istanbul University Cerrahpaşa Medical
    School, Department of Deontology and History of Medicine which were founded
    by late A. Süheyl Ünver, presided over A. Süheyl Ünver Embroidery House and
    trained many students continues her educational works privately in Turkish Islamic
    Arts Applied Library

Gülbün Hanım, you are the daughter of the teacher A. Süheyl Ünver. You were with him throughout his life. You were at his side and able to learn from his talents and experiences. Süheyl Bey was a native born resident of Istanbul and a lover of Istanbul. As are you. You are well aware of what has been going on in Istanbul in the last fifty years. I am sure you talked to your father about all these things. From time to time, you wandered around Istanbul with him and you learned many things from him. If you don’t mind, I would like to talk about your father, his lifestyle and his experiences in Istanbul. Can we start from Haseki if you don’t mind?

Sure… My mother is from Eyüp Sultan. She was the daughter of Emin Benlioğlu, a building constructer and brick merchant, an important person from Niğde. After she married my father in 1932, she moved to the mansion in Bostan Hamamı Street, Haseki. They lived there for a couple of years. Afterwards, I think in 1934, they moved to Emin Bey Apartment – a place my grandfather had built for his family in Kadıköy, Mühürdar. My paternal grandmother, Safiye Hanım, moved to the apartment with them. The street next to that apartment is Tuğlacı Emin Bey Street, and it still exists today. Unfortunately, the house where my elder brother and I grew-up, was sold. It was torn down and a new building was built in its place.

Do you have any memories of the house in Haseki? Did you ever see it?

No, I never saw it. That house must have been sold after we moved out, so it was a place we never knew. We had seen photographs of the mansion and of my father’s roof top terrace on the top floor of the house. Also, there is an oil painting that was painted by Ahmet Yakupoğlu. But, I remember my maternal grandmother’s house in Eyüp Sultan quite well. We used to visit there every Bayram and kiss the hands of our elders.

Does the house in Eyüp still exist?

Unfortunately not.…

What was it like? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I remember that we used to go to the house through the back streets of Eyüp Sultan. The street on which the house was located still exists. It was a white stone mansion and had a large back yard. The only thing we have which belongs to this place is a painting of Ahmet Yakupoğlu. We were very young when we used to visit my maternal grandmother. I still remember the candy and roasted chickpeas that were offered to us. Another thing I remember is the Bayram area. While the elders were sitting at home, Ahmet Ağabey used to take me to the Bayram festivities, showed me around and gave me small gifts. This mansion remained for a long time - later on, it was also sold, like many others before it. As far as I can remember, it was near to the road that leads to the coastline road and ring road today.

So, if I understand you correctly, you spent your childhood in Mühürdar.

2- Fatih Mosque. The cone of its right minaret was broken. It was one of the historical buildings restored during the Democrat Party rule (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

That’s right, most all of my childhood memories are from the time I spent in Mühürdar. After my father moved to Mühürdar from Haseki, he would go to his surgery and the university from Kadıköy. In the evenings, my mother used to put my brother in his stroller and go to the Kadıköy port to meet my father. From there, they used to walk home together, passing the road beyond Kadıköy, known as Kumluk, and İnci Gazinosu – the present day registrar’s office. I remember the road from our house to the ferry well – it was short so there were no vehicles. People generally all went on foot. In 1946, I started Primary School No 41 in Moda, Kadıköy. All of the children of the family went to the same school. Eventually, however, the family moved from the building and went their separate ways, and the apartments were rented out.

Could you describe Mühürdar in those years?

As I said, Mühürdar was the district located on the coastal road from Kadıköy Ferry Port to the place known as Kumluk -walking distance from Moda. It used to be entirely on the seaside. Now, those parts have been filled in; moreover, a concrete dock has been built. We grew up in front of fabulous Istanbul scenery. My paternal grandmother lived with us. My maternal grandmother, her siblings and her extended family would also come to visit. Our childhood in Mühürdar was wonderful – spent with my elder brother, my cousins and friends.

Now, it just a vast concrete hell.

It was a beautiful district, where the apartments were not attached, but had gardens.

Did your apartment have a garden?

It had a vast front and backyard. I cannot forget the amazing sea views from the floor we lived on. We used to just sit on the balcony at nights and gaze at the Bosphorus. But I have never been able to understand why the area around Topkapı Palace was always dark and the sides of Galata were illuminated and bright. Nowadays, Topkapı Palace is lit up; however, when I was a child, the area was pitch black.

Really amazing…As if there was life on one side and none on the other.

Yes. I neither understood this nor did I like the darkness. During Ramadan and Bayram, the minarets and roofs in Sarayburnu (Historical Peninsula) were illuminated by lamps. Apart from these times, when we looked out at that particular area, we could only see a dense darkness. With the exception of Galata and Beyoğlu, nightlife was nonexistent in the city. As I said, we used to spend our summer nights on the balcony. With my brother, we used to count the red and blue lights in Haydarpaşa and Galata. Also, I will never forget Büyük Çamlıca hill – it was visible from the rear balcony of our apartment in Mühürdar. I would notice how all the great storms, rain and snow came from Çamlıca, like a big smudge. When we would misbehave as children, my grandmother would say: “I can smell a beating coming from Çamlıca”. After all, everything else came from Çamlıca…

Well, which places in Istanbul did you love to see and visit most?

3- The view of Valens Aqueduct and Fatih district from the side of the building of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Fatih Mosque is seen on the left side. The cone on one of its minarets is broken down.

Mostly, we used to go to Çamlıca and Fenerbahçe. We did not have a car then, so I guess we would go by taxi.

There must have been a trolley line to Kısıklı.

There was. Mostly, we used to get on the open trolley, which operated only during the summer, and go to Fenerbahçe from Mühürdar. This was my favorite journey. Also, during the holidays, we used to rent a boat from the Kalamış Port or Kurbağalı Stream. All of this was arranged by my mother - she used to make us get on the boat, row, teach us to swim and then take us home. As usual, my father used to be at work at. He didn’t have the time to join us. I will never forget those times. We also used to go to Moda Beach. I will never forget the women’s baths. There was also one in Fenerbahçe at the time, but Fenerbahçe Cape was too run down, and I don’t think we ever went there.

We also went to Küçük Çamlıca, mostly to picnic under the shade of the trees. In 1956, my family bought an Opel. Cars were rarely seen in the streets of Istanbul at that time. My father’s teacher, Professor Necmettin Rıfat Yarar, our neighbor in Mühürdar, taught my mother how to drive. My father was the first to take a driving license, but he could not lean to drive; his driving was terrible. If you remember, the roads along the Bosphorus on the Anatolian side at the time were very hilly. My father would step on the brake to stop the car moving and then my brother would fly from the car to place a large stone behind the rear wheel to prevent it sliding downhill. In spite of the difficultly of the journey, we used to go to Kandilli Rasathanesi (observatory) frequently. We also would get a special permit in order to visit the gardens of Hidiv Kasrı (pavilion). Also, we used to go to Kavaklar. Strangely enough, we never took the ferry to the Princes’ Islands.

Was there any special reason?

4- The picturesque corner of Istanbul would not escape from A. Süheyl Ünver’s attention. A corner that he recorded by water color paints in Kısıklı in 1974

No. Most probably because at that time they seemed to be far away. Büyük Çamlıca and Küçük Çamlıca were the picnic areas we used to go to the most. Once, we went on a picnic to Acıbadem in our car. Do you know that Acıbadem, which is like a sea of concrete today, was green at that time? I remember very well that we would picnic amongst the vast orchards and flowers.

Istanbul has changed very rapidly, hasn’t it?

Yes, indeed. After the tranquility of Istanbul during our childhood, the present day chaos affects me very negatively. Shopping in the Kadıköy market, window-shopping in Altıyol, as was the trend at that time and the pleasure of going to the cinema have become a thing of the past. My family used to buy opera or movie tickets for Friday evenings in Kadıköy, going to watch the movie of the week or of the year -something we all would wait for with great excitement.

How did you spend the Bayrams?

The mornings of the Bayrams in my youth are unforgettable. Nothing today compares to those celebrations. I remember the Bayrams we spent in the apartment in Mühürdar. After we paid respect to our elders, we would visit other apartments in the building. Among the tenants, there was a family from Maraş. When we visited them, the eldest of the family used to give us handmade lace handkerchiefs. After that, we used to go to my grandmother in Eyüp Sultan and kiss her hand. She had candy and roasted chickpeas in big jars in front of the window. They were meant for the children of the neighborhood who came to pay their respects during the Bayram. Interestingly, my grandmother at that time was living alone; she did not want to live with her daughter nor with her son. She lived alone in that huge mansion in Eyüp… For some reason I was frightened of that house. I did not want to eat anything. In order not to stay there for long, Ahmet Ağabey used to take me to the Bayram area in Eyüp Sultan.

The person you call as Ahmet Ağabey must be the painter Ahmet Yakupoğlu?

Ahmet Ağabey was always part of the nuclear family during my childhood. For as long as I can remember, Ahmet Ağabey was part of our lives. The time we spent with him occupies an enormous place in my childhood memories. Even our family albums are made up of the photographs he took. Every time he came from Kütahya, to where he returned and where he lived, he would stay in our family house that we referred to as the “father’s house”.

5- Gülbün Mesara is in her house in Çiftehavuzlar. She shows one of the works of her father in the room that she reserved her father.

Could you tell a little bit about the Bayram area in Eyüp Sultan?

I do not remember any Bayram area other than that in Eyüp Sultan. Compared to today, it was quite a primitive entertainment area at that time, but, for me, at the time, it was the place I was most keen to go to. Also, I will never forget that Ahmet Ağabey used to take me there, buy me beş kuruşluk yüzükler (five penny rings), as he called them, and make me happy. Swings and pinwheels were the greatest entertainment of the area. These rings of course were my most precious souvenirs.

When did you move out of Mühürdar?

After I finished Primary School No 8 in Mühürdar, I started Üsküdar Amerikan Kız Koleji. As my father was invited to Columbia University as a visiting professor, we first left Mühürdar to go to America in 1958, the year I graduated. This was somehow the end of our life in that apartment. When we returned after a year, my mother wanted to leave the apartment because of some problems within the family. We left our home and moved to Göztepe and rented a house there. It was really sad for me to have to leave the family home..

I remember your house in Kalamış. In 1976, there was a TV program for TRT with your father filmed in that house. I guess it was a two story home..

Yes, two stories... We were the tenants of Kemal Kavrakoğlu family in Göztepe. During the 27 May coup d’etat, we were living in that house. My mother used to complain “We have never lived in a rented house, why aren’t we in our own house?” Her only wish was to have a house with a garden. Around that time, my family bought a flat in Kızıltoprak. We lived there for a couple of years, but it didn’t satisfy my mother’s wish for a house with a garden; in 1971, we bought the house in Kalamış.. Back then, Kalamış Fener Street had small villas on it – unlike the present day apartment buildings that line it now. Our nextdoor neighbour, Hamamcı Cemil Bey, was the owner of Çemberlitaş Hamamı (Turkish baths) and lived in a beautiful, classic Turkish house. But unfortunately, within two years, our neighbors informed my father that Cemil Bey was taking apart his house little by little, so that it would no longer be on the list of historical monuments. He had already started to remove shutters and other things. And sure enough, he’d made a deal with a building contractor and they pulled down that beautiful house, piece by piece, in front of our eyes. Further, they chopped down the plum tree in the garden, when it was full of fruit. After, they erected a gigantic, nine-story building there.

6- Seyyid Nizam Mosque in Silivrikapı through the eyes and brushes of A. Süheyl Ünver. The date of painting is not known, but it is understood from its style that it should
    not be a very old one. It is understood that Süheyl Ünver painted the state of Seyyid Nizam remained in his memory from 1910, not its current state which has been turned
    into a concrete hell.

This is how Istanbul has gradually faded away. Of course the great transformation began in the 1950’s. Industrialization, urbanization, internal migration…

Due to the deep sorrow he felt when he witnessed the destruction of historical places in Istanbul which occurred during the Menderes government in 1956, my father told the painter Ahmet Ağabey “Ahmet, Istanbul passed away.” At that time, Ahmet Ağabey was working in the Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü (History of Medicine Institute) as a staff painter, and together they witnessed the urbanization of Istanbul during their daily commute. Ahmet Ağabey himself told me this.

Yes, but he probably meant “I entrust Istanbul to you” rather than “Istanbul passed away ”….

Once, on his way to the university my father met Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar in Beyazıt Square. As Tanpınar passed him, he said, “Süheyl, Istanbul is entrusted to you” and proceeded quickly on his way. He passed away shortly after this encounter.

I did not know that he said this to Ahmet Yakupoğlu. I know that Tanpınar said it to your father from Ahmet Güner Sayar’s biography of A. Süheyl Ünver. What did he say to you? How was he able to communicate to you what was going on?

We heard about this from my father. Although he had some worries regarding the administration of the time, he didn’t share any of his concerns with us, including his distress and the debates he had with those he considered to be his close academic colleagues. We knew that what he experienced during these times offended him very much, and the breakdown of the institute that he had worked so hard to establish hurt him deeply. Some people, like my husband, confide in me – however, my father was not such a person. He would never tell us such and such a thing happened in Istanbul or what was going on in his office. He was always in good mood, very calm and quiet.

7- A. Süheyl Ünver had also special interest in Turkish coffee and coffee house culture. He wrote a comprehensive article on this subject and a book in which he dealt with
    the paintings of Üsküdarlı Hoca Ali Rıza about coffee houses and the instruments used in them. Paşa Baba Coffee House on Üsküdar Harem Pier is depicted in this painting

He did not reflect it outwardly. I guess he used to talk about the things he liked.

He used to believe that every cloud had a silver lining. He used to say “That which offends your soul is that which is good for you”. One day he said “Let a hidden place be inside of you, do not let the sorrow and distress enter there. Let this place belong to you!” Of course I always listened to him, but could not understand what he meant at the time. In times of trouble, he used to come home in the evenings and eat his meal in silence. He never shared his troubles with. Instead, he would retire to his room and examine files until midnight. I thought that this was his hidden inner-calm - arts and culture. He could spend countless hours doing this. I have always applied these same principles throughout my life.

I can say that I understand your father very well. This requires ethics and will. He endured his problems all alone - he didn’t share. And the problem that is experienced alone becomes larger. Gülbün Hanım, let’s go back to the house in Kalamış.

We spent very nice days in the house you saw. I did not live in that house for long because shortly after the house was bought, I got married and went to Ankara. But, of course, it was the family house and we still would go there regularly. They loved that house but, as usual, the building contractors tried to persuade them, saying that the house was very small compared to the colossal ones nearby; they said they would buy the house and rebuild it. In this way, on my mother’s wish, the house became an apartment building. My father died long before the demolition and construction - thank God he did not have to witness the devastation of that villa he loved so very much.

And he had a pleasant study.

In all the houses we lived, the first room to be arranged was always my father’s study.

Presumably, he moved the roof terrace of the house in Haseki there. At least, it seems so.

His room in Mühürdar was very nice – it had a sea view, bookcases and a glass case. He gave me one of the lower shelves of his bookcases, and I would put his newly published, autographed books there. I also had stuff like paper, notebooks and paint which I kept, like I learned from him. I remember very well that while my father was studying in his room, I would sit on the floor and busy myself with my small case. It was my father who encouraged us to make notebooks or files. After we left Mühürdar, his rooms in the rental house and in the apartment in Kızıltoprak started to get smaller. Due to the lack of space, my father unfortunately had to transfer some of his archives to the Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü, which he had established at Istanbul University. While we were in America with my husband, my father said “If you had a house in Istanbul, I would move my study to your house and work from there, just as I used to go to the library once in a week.” We returned in 1984 and I am so glad that we moved my father’s library, together with the paintings on the wall, to this house. My elder brother hung the paintings on the wall. My father came here, that is, he saw how the room was arranged. He used to come once a week and we started to open the archives. Some of the files were composite, that is, they had notes on mixed subjects. There were hundreds of materials among the composite ones. He was very old by this time and he used to get tired after looking at a few papers; he would say “Let’s continue this next week”. For this reason, the composite files were barely touched and remained pretty much the same.

It is a pity. Did you use to stroll around Istanbul with him?

Of course. During those times it was not common to go to summer resorts or hotels. Moreover, everything that we did in my childhood we did as a family. For instance, one Ramadan, we all went to the Blue Mosque after iftar. My father had talked to the muezzin, and we were able to watch as they prepared the mahya (strings of lights hung between minarets spelling out a phrase). In the following years, our trips were usually during Friday sermons, so that we would get to know the mosques, cemeteries and old neighborhoods. I always remember how much I benefited from these trips. I wish we could have had more opportunities to carry out such trips.

8- Millet Avenue extending from Aksaray towards Taşkasap. Taşkasap was a forgotten neighborhood the name of which is remembered only in old novels, stories and official registers. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Well, the mahya were being made in the classical style at this time. Not with light bulbs, but with oil lights… As you watched them do the preparations, do you remember how they installed the mahya?

No, I can only remember the scent of the lamp oil and that they wrapped something up in rope while they were walking. As I mentioned before, we were very young during these trips.

It was not like today where you hit a button to light up the mosque – then, the oil lamps would be lit, and the words would gradually appear in the sky. It must have been very nice to watch the words appear on strings between the minarets. That is why I am asking.

9- Gülbün Mesara successfully continues her father A. Süheyl Ünver’s mission

Most probably it was. But I was not at an age where I could understand the importance of this event. My father took us there. I remember we had fun, but I have forgotten the details. I know many things about my childhood thanks to my father. My father was one of the first people who bought a movie camera in Istanbul. He shot a large number of movies, beginning from 1937. Now we are trying to transfer his films from film spools to CD. There is a film of of Tahsin Öz Bey’s funeral, for instance. There are also family films. One was shot while I was trying to take my first steps and another was shot in Moda Park when I was playing, and there are others. My elder brother put the film spools together. Even years later, when we watched these films, the whole family would enjoy it; it is as if we are reliving those days.

I didn’t know this about Süheyl Hoca. Is this included in the book by Ahmet Güner?

I don’t remember, I would have to look. He had a small camera he had bought in order to satisfy his interest in capturing the places and events of his time – it is an antique now. The pictures he took with that camera are the clearest photographs today. I have preserved that camera. He used to take it everywhere; most of the photographs in those notebooks were taken by my father.

He must have taken photos of İstanbul.

Sure… The negatives of most of these photographs are now in the Ünver Room at Süleymaniye Library; at the present time, they are being sorted. Most of the printed ones have been put in relevant files. Some of them have been printed; who knows where their originals are. Those that have been lost are gone forever.

How did your father get into the habit of recording everything he saw or heard; where did he develop the habit of taking notes or drawing? Did he ever mention anything about this?

One of my father’s old friends, Esad Fuad Tugay, once said that the Ancient Egyptians had written and drawn everything that was important and thus there was nothing that we did not know about them. My father was inspired by this, and he would say that this led him to think on this matter. In 1951, Esad Fuad Bey invited my father and mother to his mansion which was on the Nile River; this is where he spent his summers with his wife. When they went to Egypt, Esad Fuad Bey showed my father the pyramids, arguably as rich as the underground palaces of old times. My father watched with astonishment and admiration how the ancient Egyptians had illustrated their lives. Under the influence of these impressions, on the first trip he took, when he returned to Istanbul he both wrote and illustrated what he saw in a notebook. In this way, he developed the habit of writing and illustrating his impressions during his travels to different regions of the country, in particular, in Istanbul. You know my father was a student of the painter Üsküdarlı Hoca Ali Rıza, and he learned how to paint nature from him. With Rıza’s encouragement, my father began to draw pictures of İstanbul. The old houses, mosques, tombs, fountains and cemeteries of Üsküdar, which they walked around step by step, became the theme of most of his paintings. Let me recite a memory he told me about. One afternoon, he was called to Sultantepesi in order to examine a patient; he was taken to a mansion and led upstairs. The patient was in a large room with a fine view. From the window of the room, the unique scenery of Üsküdar and İstanbul was visible. After being fascinated by such beautiful scenery, my father checked the patient’s pulse and the general condition and seeing that there was nothing wrong, he asked permission to draw the scenery on a piece of paper, and then continued his care of the patient.

10- The view of Fatih from Şehzadebaşı (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Gülbün Hanım, please remember what you are talking about; but could you first tell me a little bit about Esad Fuad Turgay?

As far as I know, Esad Fuad Bey was a diplomat – the son of Müşir Fuad Pasha. His wife was the princess Ziba, from the Egyptian dynasty. My father was a regular participant of the customary Saturday meetings of Esad Fuad Bey, who was an erudite not only in liberal arts, but also in cuisine. Once my elder brother and I went with my father to one of the tea meetings.

11- “Üsküdar’ın Mihrimah Sultanı” through A. Süheyl Ünver’s brush

As far as I know, although your father was the student of Hoca Ali Rıza, he didn’t aspire to be a painter in the classical sense – that is, he wasn’t interested in the artistic value of his paintings, but rather their documentary value.

That’s right. In fact, my father used to say that he was trying to create historical memories, which he thought of as the building blocks for the spiritual progress of cities and for the benefit of future generations, rather than performing art. Unless necessary, he did not go to the places that were not appealing to his scientific or cultural interests. Rather, he made use of every opportunity to determine the neighborhoods, the mosques, tekkes, schools, streets, houses, ziyaretgahs (place of pilgrimage) and similar places, which had begun to disappear; all of these had historical significance. To this end, he drew pictures and prepared notebooks.

You saw the preparation of most of his notebooks then.

Yes, my father’s studies of this sort continued uninterrupted for fifty years. The notebooks he prepared are invaluable both due to the illustrations as well as the knowledge they included; and I was lucky enough to see how most of them were made. Of course, my father’s love for Istanbul was unique. Most of his watercolors and charcoal drawings are of Istanbul. He said that every corner of Istanbul was filled with beauty. He used to say “We should not love Istanbul for fun, we should internalize it, we should visit the unique neighborhoods of this exceptional city during the holidays and caress these places with our eyes”. According to my father, none of the neighborhoods of Istanbul resemble one another; he used to say that from Eyüp Sultan to Üsküdar, from the Bosphorus villages to Çamlıca, all had a unique beauty. He painted most of his watercolors during the visits to his favorite places in İstanbul. After the 1960s, he began including his students on his tours of the city; before this, he had always wandered İstanbul on his own. His goal was to determine which historic sites in the city were in danger of disappearing. These trips became more systematic in the 1970s and turned into weekly course trips. In these trips, he played close attention to the historical quarters –looking for anything he thought worth illustrating. When he saw something he wanted to paint, he would immediately find a seat and a glass of water for the paint. He would then open his painter’s bag, take out his pen, paper, watercolor box and brushes and start painting. While painting, he would lecture his students who were watching him work. We found a memoir of such a trip dated 1964 in one of the notebooks of dear Azade Akar, who was my father’s assistant for many years.

12- The view of Vatan Avenue beginning from Bayrampaşa and going to Aksaray Square by passing between Murat Paşa Mosque and Valide Mosque after the demolitions were completed in the region (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Azade Hanım has more travel notebooks than my father. These notebooks, with all their unique entries, are amazing. According to the notes she took, once they had went to the Sheikh Murad Dergahı in Nişancı, Eyüp. Trying to hide his sadness at the miserable condition of the tekke, my father said, “These places are the real İstanbul. In such places, I try to find small traces of the past on the faces of the historical artifacts; these once had an outstanding beauty and survived centuries. By bringing them together, I am trying to revive that outstanding beauty through my paintings.” In later years, this painting in which my father depicted the tekke as it had originally been was the first source used during renovations carried out by the waqf he established. On that day, among the broken and ruined gravestones within the burial area, my father found the gravestone of the calligrapher Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi and put it upright. According to the notes of Azade Hanım, he thought of this event as the “fortunate miracle” of that visit.

What do you remember about the visits on which you accompanied him?

A meeting was held about the renovation of the gravestones that were to be on exhibit. Haluk Şaman Bey was the consultant of culture of Yapı Kredi Bank at this time. The exhibition was later held in the gallery of the bank.

13- An Üsküdar mansion in Selimiye through A. Süheyl Ünver’s brush

In the spring of that year, we started to visit graveyards together. Of course, visiting these places with my father was beneficial in a number of ways for me. He would tell me about the elements, characteristics and historical importance of the stone work. It was at this time that I learned not to be afraid of graveyards. We have a photo as well; it was taken in the burial area of Hacı Bayram Kaftani Mosque, which is located near Haseki. In one of the Friday lessons, he took me and Azade Hanım to this burial area and I remember that upon seeing the beauty of the bouquet of cyclamens and tulips we nearly embraced the sarcophagus.

To Fatih…

I always keep the pictures taken in this hazire (covered graveyard). We took a moulage from this stone drawing and my father drew a beautiful drawing over it in pen. We all drew and painted. He used to surprise us by taking us to places he thought we would find interesting. In 1982, we went to Silivrikapısı after a Friday sermon. I will always remember that he suddenly showed me a painting that depicted a small wooden house hidden under the arch of the gate; he gave it to me as a gift.

He spent his life taking notes. I have never known anybody who took as many notes or recorded information like he did.

Yes, there is no one quite like him. Paper and pen were at the forefront of his domestic life. He always had a pen and paper in hand, and he used to write constantly. He never went to places he did not like. Although he would receive countless invitations from abroad, he was never interested in accepting such invitations. He would only accept the ones that he felt would give him pleasure.

As far as I can understand, there are some cities he loved - specifically Bursa, Kütahya, Konya, Sivas…

Especially Edirne… He used to say “From now on, I am living for Edirne”. Also, he had a close friend from Edirne: Dr. Rıfat Osman. Their professions, interests and preoccupations resembled one another very much. Both of them were doctors, and also painters and historians… They met through the painter Hoca Ali Rıza Bey and became friends. Rıfat Osman Bey invited my father to Edirne in 1926, and that is when Edirne became a life-long interest for my father.

14- In one of the picturesque place of Istanbul, A. Süheyl Ünver is taking notes under the curious eyes of the children. Maybe he will soon take his small box of paints out
    and record the beauties that he did not want to be lost in the language of paintings.

Gülbün Hanım, finally I would like to ask about the Süheyl Ünver Nakışhanesi at Cerrahpaşa Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü. Your father taught a course in Turkish Tezhip (ornamentation) and miniature in the Fine Arts Academy while working as a doctor. But, in 1957, when the Decorative Arts Department was closed, his primary focus became the Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü - which he established as part of the Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine. Were you a student of your father’s here?

Yes, until 1985, although the Fine Arts Academy was shut down, my father continued his tezhip and miniature courses at the Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü. The courses were held on Fridays. I started to attend these courses regularly in 1960, and I entered the world of my father. In this way, I learned about his work, and his systematic methods of research and archiving. Well, I went through a stage of apprenticeship and, in time, became my father’s assistant. After his death, I managed the nakışhane (art house) in the Tıp Tarihi Enstitüsü. You know, this nakışhane was named after my father, and became a place where hundreds of tezhip artists and muralists were trained. Because I wanted to honor the traditions of my father, I decided to continue my courses at home. Upon the invitation of our teacher, the calligrapher Hüseyin Kutlu, we - as the A. Süheyl Ünver Art Studio - have been working and producing new projects since 2010 under the tutelage of Uygulamalı Türk İslam Sanatları Merkezi, (Center for Applied Turkish-Islamic Arts). The Center operates within the historical library of Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa Mosque – a place my father loved very much.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. May your father rest in peace.


This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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