atlas: Translating Mesopotamian Knowledge & Aesthetics to Our Times

Upper Mesopotamia is a very important region that marks the beginning of the history of humanity. The atlas project is a very important social responsibility
project for us in which we present… …a modern interpretation of the findings derived from archaeological excavations… …that date back to twelve thousand years ago to serve humanity, once again. Our aim here is to facilitate low-income and disadvantaged women in becoming… a contributor to economic life and present our designs for the use and service of all… of humanity by employing a modern approach, through our cooperative that has been formed with the integration of migrant women from Syria. atlas is a collection of textiles and products that translate the culture and aesthetics of Mesopotamia to current day. The main reference points for the design concept of this project were the daily rituals of the different civilizations that have lived in Harran as well as their contributions to mathematics, architecture, geometry and science. This was the most important standing point for atlas. These references needed to be positioned in the current contemporary design scene. As the curators, we picked six designers and formed a committee that consisted of the District Governorship of Harran, academics, archaeologists and historians and developed a methodology that supported the process. Good design involves increasing the user’s quality of life, but also meeting certain sustainability goals. In this context, we created and developed our project with a democratic approach to process design. To ensure authentic storytelling, we adopted an integrated design approach for our processes that consisted of site visits, research, concept development and prototyping. And so the idea that creative sectors could support local economies by creating added value was realized with the atlas design collection. The thing that excited all of us in this project was the unifying power of design. It not only forms a bridge between the past and the future, but also brings together people with very different needs from different cultures and life styles and gives us designers a very tangible and beautiful reason to design. I developed a separator design for the Harran project. In Harran, they pick Peganum Harmala seeds and place them on a string to create a decorative object. You can find one of these in almost all of the houses in the region. They believe that it gets rid of bad energy and cleans the space; a reflection of Pagan culture. Based on this, I developed a product design that women who attend the felt workshops, but also the kids, women and elderly from the Harran community who don’t, could contribute to. I created a three-piece wall textiles collection inspired by the planetary culture in Harran. The moon god, Sin, is at the top of the Pantheon, with his son Shamash and daughter Venus. We created hand-woven wall textiles that reflect the attributes associated to these three gods. We have been continuing the project for three years. We started with artisan Mehmet Girgiç and and are continuing it on as his assistants. I am a felt instructor, we work together with 22 women here. They are all trying to earn their own money and are also socially expressing themselves. In our third year, we’re trying to make our voice heard even more with the atlas project. The first thing that grabs your attention when you get to Harran is the vast, endless horizon line. We’re talking about a geographic location in which you can see the sky and the earth at the same time. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the word Harran translates into ‘journey’, as a vast spectrum of civilizations, from ancient civilizations and cultures that include those who have advanced the fields of philosophy and science have lived and formed an accumulation of knowledge there. Harran is a residual region, really. Most importantly, it occupies a special place regarding humanity’s efforts in understanding the universe and themselves. I wanted to especially convey this to people through products in my design. We produce wooden toys in our workshops. In addition to wooden toys, we are open to different products and with the atlas project, we started to lean towards different designs. The ladies here love to work. I hope these efforts will support them. We used to sell the products that they produced at our selling points however with the new designs we created with the atlas project, we will be able to market them on a bigger scale and make efforts to increase opportunities of economic income for them. During the preparation for the bag that I prepared for the atlas collection, I was very impressed by the astronomy works that the people of Harran carried out. Today, the people of Harran have very close ties with the land, therefore the bag that we designed creates a link between the Earth and the sky. The women in the Harran container town and family support centers produce the bags together. The thing that fascinated us most about Harran was the work they carried out on geometry and astronomy and the way that they applied these findings to the field of architecture. Based on these, we designed a set of tableware for the atlas collection. Using the phases of a lunar eclipse as our foundation, we made an attempt to portray the multi-cultural nature of the region through colors. In addition, it was very exciting to blend the age-old craftsmanship culture in Harran with the tools of modern production, such as three-dimensional modeling and printing to create new designs. Fifty percent of our trainees are Syrian immigrants and the remaining fifty percent are from the local community. In addition to giving them a training, we try to provide them with a window to the world. atlas project has been very supportive in this sense. While we used their photos to produce the products, the visits of the designers helped us to understand the necessary phases in which the products had to go through to be successful. We used to live with clay and our imaginations only… now the element of design and an international dimension to it all has been introduced. I designed a felt kilim and a wall textile series for the atlas project. The motifs and symbols of Mesopotamian culture in the Harran region have been a source of inspiration for me. It is impossible not to feel the energy of the communities who have lived here in the past. It has been a very fascinating and even magical experience in this sense. Harran has affected me most with its remains and geometric forms. So I thought of what kind of project I could do based on these. I wanted to design a product that made a tribute to the archaeological wealth, stratums and remains. I chose wood as my material. The reason for this was that the wood needed attention and care, just like the essence of Harran. I designed a product that is based on the architectural heritage of Harran.

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