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Innana Cusi next to her art piece Gaia

Artists remember Turkey, Syria earthquake victims through female-only exhibit

A female-only art exhibition celebrating International Women’s Day turned into an homage to Turkish Syrian earthquake victims

By Tanushi Bhatnagar , in City , on April 4, 2023 Tags: , , ,

When Inanna Cusi was asked to be a part of the Women’s Art on Women’s Day exhibition sponsored by the Turkish Canadian Society of Vancouver, she started off with bright colours to celebrate the strength of women.

After the news of the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, she transformed her painting into the depiction of the Goddess Gaia holding up the Earth on cracked ground painted in shades of green, blue and brown. 

Cusi’s piece Gaia was inspired by the earthquakes, climate change and the collective effort and strength of women trying to combat it.

“My piece represents the community strength of women while the tragedy and devastation hit us all. It shows both the strength and the fragility of women,” she said. 

Cusi, an Austrian-Mexican artist and filmmaker, was one of the many Turkish, Iranian, and Mexican diaspora artists paying homage to the earthquake victims at the exhibition.   

Held on March 8 at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Building in downtown Vancouver, the exhibition showcased works from 17 female artists on the themes of equality, grief and the power of a woman.

Inanna Cusi’s art piece Gaia

This exhibition was directed by artist Nilufar Moayeri with the Turkish Canadian Society of Vancouver. Initially, the exhibit was planned to honour International Women’s Day and kickstart the celebration for the centennial anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 2023.

However, Cusi’s reaction to the earthquakes was shared by the other artists at the exhibition.

“Our artists switched all their paintings to darker colours to show their sadness. Most of the paintings here are not very colourful and don’t have happy feelings [behind] them,” said Moayeri. 

She said the exhibit remained focused on the power of women.

“We continue to do that, but only with our pain,” Moayeri added. 

Women’s Art on Women’s Day exhibition at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Building

The president of the Turkish Canadian Society of Vancouver, Demet Edeer, said that it was important to honour women and their expression through art as a part of celebrating 100 years of the Turkish Republic.

“Turkish women gained a higher level on many fronts after the proclamation of the republic,” she said in an interview at the exhibition. 

Nilufar Moayeri’s collection was a key attraction at the exhibit

Moayeri’s collection was the main feature of the exhibition. The Iranian-born artist takes inspiration from Mesopotamian goddesses and explores feminist symbolism in her work.

Her piece Light and Darkness speaks directly to the calamity, displaying a woman’s face painted half in bright colours signifying hope and the other half in dark tones surrounded by rubble and tragedy. 

Light and Darkness by Nilufar Moayeri

On Feb. 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Southern Turkey and Northern Syria, followed by a 7.5-magnitude tremor killing nearly 8,000 people. Since then, 11,000 aftershocks have led to over 45,000 deaths, displaced over two million people and affected another 24 million, according to a report by UNICEF

“Some families have lost five or six people. Psychologically, not only people who lost their families but all of us were really affected,” Edeer said. 

Proceeds from this exhibit will go towards funding students in B.C. whose families were affected by the earthquakes, according to Edeer, who is also a Turkish-Canadian immigrant.

“We decided to raise some funds so that we can support students here whose families were in the earthquake zone. This is their education. This is their future,” she said. 

Canada is home to over 65,000 Turkish immigrants, according to federal statistics.

A portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of the Republic of Turkey

This event celebrated a hundred years of the modern Turkish Republic after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

It honoured Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who, in 1923, played a key role in making Turkey a part of the modern world and amplifying women’s rights, including granting women the right to vote in 1934, before many European countries.