2017 Pres­i­den­tial Cul­ture and Arts Grand Awards win­ners

The win­ners of the Pres­i­den­tial Cul­ture and Arts Grand Awards, which honor artists, mu­si­cians and lit­er­ary fig­ures ev­ery year, were an­nounced on Oct. 29 and will be hon­ored later this year

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Portrait - HAKAN ARSLANBENZER - IS­TAN­BUL

The pres­i­dency has been the high­est rep­re­sen­ta­tional rank of the state since the foun­da­tion of the Repub­lic. Al­though the Prime Min­istry will re­main the head of ex­ec­u­tive power un­til the next elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment voted on and ac­cepted on April 16, 2017, the pres­i­dency has al­ways held a psy­cho­log­i­cal supremacy in pub­lic opinion. Pres­i­dents have rep­re­sented the whole na­tion, es­pe­cially in an emo­tional sense.

In 1995, the pres­i­dency ini­ti­ated a spe­cial award, the Pres­i­den­tial Cul­ture and Arts Grand Award, to be pre­sented by the pres­i­dent to peo­ple who “have made prom­i­nent con­tri­bu­tions to the cul­tural and artis­tic life of Turkey, and who have worked for the sub­li­ma­tion of Turkish cul­ture and arts ac­cord­ing to the Pres­i­den­tial Cul­ture and Arts Grand Award’s reg­u­la­tions.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Sü­ley­man Demirel, who served be­tween 1993 and 2000, pre­sented the first Pres­i­den­tial Grand Awards to painter Burhan Doğançay, novelist Adalet Ağaoğlu and mu­si­cian Şe­fika Kut­luer. Demirel went on to present three awards for the next four years. The next pres­i­dent, Ah­met Necdet Sezer, pre­sented the awards only once in 2005.

The awards have been pre­sented ev­ery year since 2008. Af­ter be­ing elected to the post in 2014, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan in­creased the num­ber of award win­ners. Dur­ing Er­doğan’s term, five or six peo­ple have been awarded ev­ery year.

The 2017 win­ners were an­nounced on Oct. 29, Repub­lic Day, as his­to­rian İl­ber Or­taylı, mu­si­cian Gök­sel Bak­ta­gir, film­maker Yavuz Tur­gul, Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­pher Ali Toy, painter Selahattin Kara and late philoso­pher Nuret­tin Topçu. We have in­tro­duced İl­ber Or­taylı, Yavuz Tur­gul and Nuret­tin Topçu pre­vi­ously. Let us take a closer look at the other award win­ners.


Gök­sel Bak­ta­gir is known for his vir­tu­oso ka­nun play­ing, a string in­stru­ment used in clas­si­cal Turkish mu­sic. Men­tioned by al-Farabi, the ka­nun has played a key role in Turkish clas­si­cal mu­sic. Bak­ta­gir was born in 1966. He re­ceived mu­sic lessons from his fa­ther, Muzaf­fer Bak­ta­gir, be­fore be­ing ad­mit­ted to the Turkish Mu­sic De- part­ment at Is­tan­bul Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity’s (İTÜ) Turkish Mu­sic State Con­ser­va­tory in 1988. He con­tin­ued with his grad­u­ate stud­ies at the same school. Mean­while, he was ap­pointed as a ka­nun player in the State Turkish Mu­sic En­sem­ble. Bak­ta­gir has played ka­nun in Turkey and Europe on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions with sev­eral en­sem­bles. The ka­nun vir­tu­oso is a com­poser as well, with about 400 com­po­si­tions to his name. Many of his com­po­si­tions have been ac­cepted in the Turkish Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion (TRT) reper­tory. Bak­ta­gir has been de­vel­op­ing his unique left hand tech­nique since 1984, along with other ka­nun play­ing tech­niques. Rec­og­nized as one of the lead­ing artists of our time for tra­di­tional Turkish ka­nun, he has pushed him­self to dis­cover the in­stru­ment’s full po­ten­tial and has chal­lenged its lim­its. He has also broad­ened his per­spec­tive to other mu­si­cal styles in the world, cre­at­ing su­perb pieces in a va­ri­ety of gen­res such as new age and jazz and per­formed with sev­eral well-known mu­si­cians in Mid­dle Eastern and Western mu­sic.


Toy is known as the mod­ern ar­chi­tect of clas­sic Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy be­cause he is both an ar­chi­tect and an Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­pher. Born in Tavşanlı, Kü­tahya, in 1960, he grad­u­ated from İTÜ’s Ar­chi­tec­ture De­part­ment in 1988, and con­tin­ued his grad­u­ate stud­ies there. He re­ceived pri­vate lessons for 10 years and fi­nally re­ceived a clas­si­cal Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy diploma from Ali Al­parslan. He is known for his works in the taliq, riqa and di­wani styles, which are very tough vari­a­tions of Ot­toman cal­lig­ra­phy. He com­bines ar­chi­tec­tural and ge­o­met­ri­cal lines with clas­sic styles of Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy, which was also men­tioned in the award an­nounce­ment. Toy is in­deed very ex­per­i­men­tal. Much of his work re­flects some kind of in­tended naivety.


Born in 1958 in Çayeli, Rize, Kara grad­u­ated from the Paint­ing De­part­ment of Atatürk Teach­ers’ In­sti­tute in 1978. He worked as a paint­ing teacher be­tween 1979 and 1984. In 1984, he re­signed and opened his work­shop in Or­taköy, Is­tan­bul. Kara took part in sev­eral group ex­hi­bi­tions while at the same time cre­at­ing more than 30 per­sonal ex­hi­bi­tions show­cas­ing his im­pres­sion­ist style. The set­tings of his paint­ings are al­ways Is­tan­bul. The award an­nounce­ment also men­tions his fo­cus on Is­tan­bul, say­ing: “Selahattin Kara, who is known as a city painter, is in­deed a painter of Is­tan­bul, which is pic­turesque in na­ture.” Kara says he has cre­ated more than 800 paint­ings of the city.

Gök­sel Bak­ta­gir

Ali Toy

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