Anatolian Turkish Festival delivers whirlwind of culture

The Anatolian Turkish Festival has kicked off Multicultural March, a series of multicultural events aiming to demonstrate diversity and enhance the community’s understanding of a variety of cultures. Held on March 3 at Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour, the festival is a celebration of all the peoples of ‘Anatolia’, a geographical region of Turkey that links Asia with Europe.

Last year an estimated 25, 000 people attended the event but this year organisers believe this number doubled to around 50, 000 visitors. With more than 82 stalls of every variety, visitors could find anything they wanted to know about Anatolian history, art, culture, music, folk dance and regional food.

The official program began at 1pm with a constant flow of honoured guests making speeches on everything from the unique bond between Turkey and Australia to the importance of multiculturalism in our progressive society. The crowd seemed particularly interested in speeches made by the Ambassador for Turkey, Mr Reha Keskintepe, and renowned journalist Peter Manning, largely due to their mention of Turkey’s founder and great leader, Ataturk.

Soon after, traditional cultural performances commenced and people began to fill up the seats quickly. The whirling dervishes seemed to create a sense of peace in the atmosphere with their practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God), a ritual that captivated the crowd. Traditional folk dances by the Tililili Anatolian Cultural Music Band and Grup Gelisim Turkish Band were highly entertaining, accompanied by the lute-like bağlama. Solo vocalist Levent Artan sang modern Turkish songs with his strong, captivating voice and simple melodic accompaniment from an acoustic guitar.

Meanwhile, people were gathering around a porcelain and ceramics artist from Kutahya, a city in western Turkey. It was clear he knew what he was doing, gracefully shaping clay into all kinds of beautiful sculptures. Members of the Mehter-Ottoman Military Marching Band were parading the park, wearing traditional red costumes with intricate gold patterns and fez hats, and proudly waving their Turkish flags.

The food stalls were bustling with people, all drawn by the tantalising promise of the delicious tastes of Anatolia. Stalls were selling the well-known street food gözleme (hand-rolled pastrybut also unique regional foods like çig köfte (raw meatballsand freshly baked simit (donut-shaped sesame bread).

Judging from the large number of people in attendance who were not from a Turkish background, the Anatolian Turkish Festival was a definite success and the themes of acceptance, understanding and multiculturalism resonated strongly throughout the day.

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