A series of photo exhibitions: village life in Eastern Anatolia (1957–1979)
Author: Martin Greve
12 September 2022
Nobody looked at their photos for decades: Kurt and Ursula Reinhard (1914–1979; 1915–2006) and Dieter Christensen (1932–2017) were known as musicologists and dealt with the audible world. During numerous research trips, they traveled to villages in different regions of Eastern Anatolia and beyond: The Reinhards traveled, for example, to Kars, Antakya, Malatya, Sivas, Gaziantep and the Black Sea coast; Christensen to Siirt and Hakkari. The Reinhards became leading scholars of Turkish music. Kurt Reinhard wrote articles on Turkish music in all international music encyclopedias, including The New Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians or Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. After the early death of Kurt Reinhard in 1979, his wife Ursula continued to conduct research, did further fieldwork and published a seminal book on the Turkish singer-poet tradition of aşık (together with Tiago de Oliveira Pinto). The book was recently translated into Turkish by Elif Damla Yavuz.
Dieter Christensen began as Kurt Reinhard’s student and joined him on his first trip to Turkey in 1955. Later both preferred to work independently, and Christensen traveled to South East Anatolia, accompanied by his wife, the ethnologist Nerthus Christensen. Christensen became the sole international ethnomusicologist working on Kurdish music, publishing articles in enyclopedias and journals. In 1970, he left Berlin and became a professor at Columbia University in New York. It was after his death in 2017, however, that Christensen became the central figure in a “me-too” debate that shocked international Ethnomusicology as a well-known and highly-respected colleague accused him of having raped her during his time in New York. Today, the name Christensen stands for his early research on Kurdish music and his later terrible misuse of academic power and unforgivable guilt.
Peter Bumke (born 1945), on the other hand, in the late 1970s, mainly worked in Dersim/Tunceli, which at the time was hardly known in Europe. Having researched the causes of migration from Anatolia to Germany since the 1960s, he stayed in the villages for several months each year, conducted extended interviews with older individuals and recorded their epic songs. In addition, as a passionate photographer, he took highly aesthetic photos of the villagers and their daily life.
Singer: Mome Kule, Ricik, Dersim/Tunceli; Recording: Peter Bumke
After his research on Dersim, Bumke disappeared from academic life, and only two articles on Dersim and its religion remained (in addition to two more widely unknown articles). As an agricultural consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), he went to Jamaica. From 1985 to 2010, Bumke lived as the director of Goethe Institutes in South and Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The photos and recordings he took in Dersim were left behind in a box in a basement in Berlin. The book he once planned to write on Dersim remained a fragment. Only after his retirement in 2010 did he retrieve the material of his past again.
It was about this time that I began to search for historical music recordings from Dersim. The late Hasan Saltık, founder and director of the legendary music label Kalan Music, handed over to me some undocumented recordings, made allegedly “in the 1960s” by Peter Bumke. I became curious and tried to find this lost scholar. After some research and emails, eventually, I met Bumke in Berlin, who was surprised that someone, after forty years, was interested in the fieldwork he had made so long ago. We talked about Dersim of that time, he shared his recordings with me (this time including all metadata), and almost incidentally he showed me the photos he had taken in the villages. I was struck by the high aesthetic value and, simultaneously, by the lost world of the Anatolian villages they depicted. I began to search for more.
Photo: Peter Bumke, ca. 1978
Some few months before his death in 2017, Dieter Christensen decided to pass all his research material to the former Berlin Phonogram Archive, now the Department for Ethnomusicology at the Berlin Museum for Ethnology. With the Dutch anthropologist Wendelmoet Hamelink, we worked through boxes, drawers and manuscripts in his working room and asked him about his fieldwork in the 1950s and 60s. Among manuscripts, music recordings and other materials, numerous photos made since 1955 in the Kurdish area of southeast Anatolia resurfaced. These small photos of Kurdish life in villages and tents taken in a time before electricity and cars became common looked even more distant from the contemporary world than Bumke’s aesthetic black and white photos.
Hakkarı, ca. 1958. Photo: Dieter Christensen
Again around the same time, Nihan Tahtaişleyen, today a research fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, began to work on her Ph.D. dissertation at the State Conservatory of Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. Her main focus was on the work of Kurt and Ursula Reinhard. For the first time, she investigated the complete materials of the Reinhards that were kept at the Museum for Ethnology in Berlin.
The Reinhards worked strictly as ethnomusicologists, and almost all of their photos depict musicians. Most were intended as a documentation of musical instruments and their performance situations, and some can be found in Reinhard’s numerous books and articles.
However, nobody has ever taken a look at his photos. Most of them have never been printed but rather were stored as negatives.
While we discussed our research on the five scholars, we realized that the photos of all of them had been completely ignored. The idea was borne to organize a series of photo exhibitions. The main thought was that at least some of the photos should initially be presented in the region where they were originally taken. The first exhibition hence took place in Dersim/Tunceli in September 2022 with photos taken by Peter Bumke. For the opening, Bumke himself revisited the region and participated in a public panel talk with local researchers and people from the very villages in which he had once stayed more than forty years ago.
As part of the Pera-Blätter publication series of the Orient-Institut Istanbul, selected photos of Bumke have been edited together with a re-edition (and first translation into Turkish) of an article which Bumke first published in 1978 on his observations in one of the villages.
LINK Pera Blätter
for the German version, see: https://perspectivia.net/publikationen/pera-blaetter/bumke_mankerek_de
for the Turkish version, see: https://perspectivia.net/publikationen/pera-blaetter/bumke_mankerek_tr
During the opening ceremony of the exhibition, two traditional musicians, Seyfi Muxundu and the well-known singer Cihan Çelik performed music strikingly similar to the tunes that Peter Bumke had once recorded.
In March 2023, all three photo collections will be united and presented for the first time in the then newly opened Teutonia building of the Orient-Institut in Istanbul. Also, original music recordings made by the scholars will be played during the exhibition. Until this time, furthermore, Dr. Nihan Tahtaişleyen (Mimar Sinan University Istanbul/Orient-Institut Istanbul) will finish her analysis of the fieldwork methodology and practice of the Reinhards, which shall also be published in the Pera-Blätter series. A more extensive research project on the music recordings of Dieter Christensen is in preparation.
Finally, the photos will return to Berlin and remain a permanent exhibition within the Department of Ethnomusicology at the Humboldt-Forum Berlin.
Martin Greve is a German ethnomusicologist based in Istanbul, Turkey. From May 2011 to September 2018, Martin Greve was a research associate at the Orient-Institut Istanbul responsible for the research field “Music in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey”. Since December 2020, he is directing the DFG-funded research project “Music, Migration and Musical Expression” at the Orient-Institut Istanbul.