Gelibolu – Sharing another perspective on the Battle of Gallipoli

April 25, 1915. The day that marked the start of Battle of Gallipoli, the World War One campaign that is now so intrinsically linked to our national identity.

This is a story we know well. Every year on 25 April, Australia pauses and reflects on the acts of bravery and sacrifice that took place on the battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula.

What is less familiar is the Turkish-Australian perspective on this story.

Ahead of the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, the City of Melbourne presents Gelibolu, a contemporary arts exhibition that shows a new viewpoint on a well-known chapter of Australian history.

Running from 18 March to 25 April 2015 at No Vacancy Gallery in QV, Gelibolu (the Turkish word for Gallipoli) uses multimedia and other visual arts to share the perspectives of Turkish-Australians on matters relating to identity, peace, death, family and the impacts of war.

We spoke with exhibition curators Nilgun Guven and Deniz Gunal-Dinckal to hear more about it.

What can people expect when they visit Gelibolu?

Deniz: There will be amazing and inspiring works of art. They are beautiful and enriching.

Nilgun: The exhibition is contemplative, thought-provoking, moving and bold.

The artworks are varied and diverse in form, approach and subject matter, giving people the space to reflect, learn and be challenged.

Painting by Mertim Gokalp of little boy on bike with medals

Image by Mertim Gökalp

What did you learn from curating this exhibition?

Deniz: It was amazing to see how many of the Turkish Australian community wanted to see an acknowledgment that Turks defended their country in the war. It was also amazing to see how much those that consider themselves Turkish-Australian came to love Australia despite the rivalries that Gelibolu could have caused. It is inspiring to see the depth of emotions and yearning for peace and friendship between these two nations.

Niglun: I learnt that irrespective of time, politics, geography or familial links to the Battle of Gallipoli, there is a fiery and reflective need for Turkish Australian people to be given opportunity to be heard and seen on this topic.

Art is an invaluable and highly effective and engaging way to be able to capture and convey such complexity.

What messages would you like people to take away from this exhibition?

Deniz: I’d like people to see that despite all the wars fought in our past, there are still so many nations fighting as if they hadn’t experienced this trauma before. That those who suffer in war are innocent people caught in the crossfire of wars fought for those more powerful. I’d like people to understand that we don’t have to fight and suffer. It is possible to reconcile our differences and discover new friendships where there was so much bloodshed before.

Nilgun: I would like to think Gelibolu is an invitation to people to participate in a refreshed and invigorated way of re-looking, re-energising, re-visiting and re-connecting with current day meanings and the significance of the Battles of Gallipoli and Anzac Day.

I hope that audiences reflect and question commemoration, memorialisation and peace associated with Anzac Day, that people can recognise and appreciate the value of finding other ways to do this.

I would like Gelibolu to enable audiences to find their own strength of meaning to these events and perhaps change or grow something that better reflect themselves and their connection to others, there and then, and into the future.

The Gelibolu exhibition runs from 18 March to 25 April at No Vacancy Gallery, QV.