Lara Ögel in one of the artists of the 5th Mardin Biennial, at the ‘Mardin Research Programme’

Dust, dust, dust

Dust is past, dust is time, dust is us. The dust that is revealed to me by the morning sun. The city is fused with its history. from its houses, its stones, its streets pours its dust. some still, some dancing. Dust recalls fairy tales, too. Like a blade of grass, it is never a single speck, and summons life, death, cyclical time. I learn that the dust that took home on my clothes are remains of the ashes far away, in the fields which are burned to be harvested once more.

Yakı, fossils, roots

During one of our trips to the market, an exquisite smell calls us into the workshop of a hammersmith. The craftsman is working with a black organic form, giving it shape, stretching it out by beating it against the heat. The karasakız yakısı is made from botanical roots, that is a fossil, that is with past, history, it is pitch black and full of magic. Prepared with the roots buried in the past, that are the limbs of the plants, karasakız yakısı heals our structural bones, joints, our skeletal system, our movement. 

Yes the stone that is in this picture is buried inside a wall in Ulu Camii is said to not have any specific properties or a reason to be there. but it reminds me of the karasakız, and also obsidian stone which was used in the past in blades and other equipment used for cutting. I am thinking about spolia, i am thinking about the gift economy. 

Amber, more fossils and prayer beads

I am going further down from the layer of dust, further down the layers of the ground, and coming across more fossils. Though not found or made in mardin, amber is a widely used and available stone in the prayer bead shops. It is a resin that comes out from a specific pine tree. it meets our skin, our palms, hundreds of yellow, orange, brown, burgundy in color, shades of history. The youngest amber is said to be about 20 million years old. Nuri, who sells amber prayer beads takes a stone and burns it with a lighter, extends to my nose the smoking piece and tells me to inhale it. in eastern beliefs the smoke of amber is said to strengthen the soul and give it courage. 

Thresholds, doors, opening worlds

I am watching from my terrace young kids running around, singing songs and playing games. From the terrace i see the other homes, from the roofs the balconies, from the windows the other courtyards. A group of layers of the city in one frame, once you change your perspective another composition emerges. Like the spaces open up to you so do the people. stories begin to emerge, and multiply as one listens. As we are imagining our future, our continuity, as the stories open other worlds, which ones will we listen to intently, which voice will we focus on? 


The water dams i have visited years ago in the ancient city of dara are said to be the first ones in detected history. The kids from the neighboring villages and homes would jump in and play amongst the grass and trees which are now recalling life as the water did back in the day. The dams were built by the settlers then, with the need to store water, the desire to hold it and make it available. And now with the water long gone, other forms of life prospered, the containers became time machines in which the children played.