A disused cognac distillery in provincial Turkey – across the Dardanelles from the World War I battlefield of Gallipoli – was set to be razed and turned into a new shopping center. Community groups in Çanakkale instead wanted the distillery turned into a public space.
For Ajam Media Collective, I followed activists, academics and artists as they successfully organized the city's diverse communities and petitioned the government to redevelop site. I learned how community organizers made efforts to get the city's Roma community and high-culture art museum on the same page. I spoke with an archaeologist who transformed the city's museum from a repository of Ancient Greek relics to a living space recalling how Jews and Armenians left their mark on Çanakkale's built environment.
Built in 1898, Yali Han is a two-story courtyard with a cafe on the main floor, NGO offices on the second floor, and wisteria growing through it.
In Çanakkale, I learned how community organizers can invoke a city's past in their vision for the city's future. The activists were led by a young farmer who wanted to tie the province's cosmopolitan and industrial histories into the rich soil of the region, creating public spaces for market gardens featuring the province's famous tomatoes and cheese.