„This could be a model of conservation for different parts of the world“
The project Indigenous Language of Taşlica: A Case of Interspecies Communication focuses on a village in the Turkish peninsula of Bozburun, exploring the interspecies relations and communication methods in the indigenous production landscapes of Anatolia. The project has been developed by Eylül Şenses, who discusses the diverse aspect and phases of this research.
When and how did your project start?
This project started within the course ‘Aesthetics of Architectural and Urban Research’ conducted by Aslıhan Demirtaş in Kadir Has University in 2018. Within the program, we have participated in the ‘Indigenous Landscape Applied Course’ conducted by Doğa Association and visited the village of Taşlıca in the Bozburun Peninsula of Southwestern Anatolia. Due to its geographical conditions, the village has been a very secluded place. Therefore, it is one of the few places in Anatolia where ancient agricultural practices have been still ongoing for thousands of years. I was very much interested in the village and the indigenous way of life there. So for my final project, I worked on this area and tried to understand how the relation of the locals with their surroundings manifests itself in the language and the vocabulary they use. But it was a very short-term project, and I could only spend a couple of days there. Continuing the project has always been in my mind since then. I was especially interested in the interspecies communication that shaped through the everlasting relations between humans and animals in the area.
What is the profile of the project collaborators?
I was trained as an architect, and recently I have been working as a researcher and public program associate for several projects. This started as a solo project, but lots of people contributed to it. My friends supported me a lot, and I benefited immensely from their feedback. Many of my friends also came to visit me in the village during the research process. They are all from different fields, so they also shared their way of seeing the context with me and this was a huge contribution to my project. As the final output displayed in the event, we have been working on a video screening and sound installation together with videographer/video artist Ebru Gümrükçüoğlu and sound engineer/designer Hakan Atmaca, who are also friends of mine.
Which stage is the project in?
I spent around two months in the village and documented the daily life going on there, tried to adapt to the routine of the place, and talked to the locals. The very severe local conditions of the basin led people to find ways to survive in this place and they developed movement-based agricultural and livestock practices. These practices induced unique ways of communication among humans and animals. In the video screening and sound installation, I’d like to display these movements, gestures, and sounds and tell about the conditions in which these practices have been developed.
In this phase of your research, what are the two most important aspects of the project?
One important aspect is that Anatolia is a place where lots of different geographies of the world are represented. Therefore, the learnings from the indigenous knowledge and practices evolved there could be adapted to lots of other places in the world. For this project, I focused on the village of Taşlıca since it is an extreme example where very severe local conditions, such as lack of water, induced very interesting practices and cultures, and they are still alive. While industrial agriculture is one of the biggest threats to the biodiversity of the world, an ongoing agricultural practice that preserves and enriches biodiversity deserves attention. Therefore, I believe documenting and sharing this knowledge is important.
Another aspect is that the ways of interspecies communication, gestures, movements, and sounds, are products of human interaction with the geographical conditions of the area. This culture evolved in this place is a significant part and indicative of these indigenous production practices and ways of living. The diversity of the earth and the culture that inhabits the place is very much parallel. Therefore, understanding the conditions that lead to the formation and maintenance of this language could contribute to preserving biodiversity as well.
What are the next steps in the research?
I’d like to elaborate on this project in two ways. First of all, this case study of interspecies communication could be reproduced as a model of conservation in different parts of the world. The second one is from a more personal point of view. I want to work on and try to understand more about the embodied relations locals developed with their surroundings, which I am aware takes a lot of time and effort.