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Istanbul: ‘Wishing Tree’ Art Ritual to Honor Victims, Survivors of Genocide

ISTANBUL, Turkey—As part of an outdoor commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a public art ritual will be enacted on April 24, ahead of the formal commemorative ceremony, according to Project 2015 and Anadolu Kultur. Participants will festoon the “Wishing Tree” with strips of fabric as homage to the victims and the survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

“After its inauguration in Taksim, we want our tree to have a life of its own and to travel to cities where there was an Armenian presence, as a symbol of remembrance and reunion,” said Osman Kavala of Anadolu Kultur, an Istanbul-based institution that fosters cultural and artistic exchange.

The Wishing Tree, designed for the occasion by Hale Tenger, a well-known contemporary artist from Turkey, will be on display for two weeks after April 24 at Depo, the exhibition center run by Anadolu Kultur. It will then be exhibited in other locations in Turkey.

The Wishing Tree ritual is part of a series of commemoration activities planned by civil society organizations in Turkey for the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Armenians from around the world are invited to participate.

“I’ll be bringing with me from New York City a strip of fabric from one of my grandmother’s aprons,” said Nancy Kricorian, a member of Project 2015’s board. “My grandmother Mariam Kodjababian Kricorian was a survivor of the 1915 genocide, and tying this cloth to the Wishing Tree in Istanbul will be a tribute to her life.”

Wishing trees are an Armenian tradition dating back to pagan times when certain trees were objects of veneration. To this day, near many ancient churchyards and small roadside chapels, one can find a tree that is adorned with rags. People tie a piece of cloth on these “wishing trees”; each rag represents a wish or a prayer that the supplicant hopes will be granted.

The wishing tree tradition is not restricted to the Armenians. In addition to being an Anatolian practice, wishing trees are found in places as far apart as Scotland and Hong Kong. The idea of a wishing tree has been updated for contemporary practice such artists as Yoko Ono, whose tree was on display in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the summer of 2010. In September 2014, the Climate Ribbon Project employed the trope of the wishing tree during the People’s Climate March in New York City.

Project 2015, a U.S.-based organization, is working to ensure that a large contingent of Armenians come to Turkey for the historic Centennial commemorations.

1 Comment on Istanbul: ‘Wishing Tree’ Art Ritual to Honor Victims, Survivors of Genocide

  1. avatar Jenni Vale // April 16, 2015 at 3:50 am // Reply

    Hopefully this will be the year the truth is no longer denied,
    Recognizing a heinous crime against humanity was committed,
    But from acceptance can come forgiveness and prevent future genocide of any race

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