Saturday, June 21, 2008

Orientalist painting of a Rifa'i dergah in Istanbul

I love this painting-- I think it's my one of my two favorites in the world. (the other is the Lyn Ott painting in the Meeting Place at the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach). This is a 19th Century Orientalist painting of a Rifa'i tekke in Istanbul. In the picture, one sees a visiting Mevlevi turning sema. I think it's also interesting that there are Africans, likely slaves brought through Egypt. As a person who's professional interests are in American slavery, this is a useful reminder that the African slave trade was not solely a transatlantic phenomenon-- some left Africa to the North and East, rather than to the Americas. Aziz Nessin describes in his autobiographical work Istanbul Boy about how many people of African descent used to be present in Turkey in the earlier part of the 20th Century. Today, they have become thoroughly mixed with the rest of the population but their descendants are still around. Though they do not really form a distinct community, there are certainly still Turks of partially African descend who retain both oral histories and physical features. Someone really should work on this topic.

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