Famous Turkish poet and playwright Tarik Günersel was born on June 27, 1953, in Istanbul. He completed his graduation in English Language and Literature from Istanbul University. His first poems were published in the magazine Birikim by Murat Belge. After the military coup d’Etat in Turkey in 1980, he went to Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun Günersel and their daughter Baris, and worked four years for Aramco. Between 1982 and 1986, Günersel served as an English lecturer there. In 1989, he wrote libretto “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, which was a two-act opera, for Selman Adafor’s composition. Günersel also wrote two operas “Mavi Nokta Orotoryosu” (1993) and “Ask-1 Memnu” (2002). Since 1991, he has served as a dramaturge and actor in the Istanbul Municipality Theatre. He has been writing columns for Birgün newspaper since 2005. In 1996, he led the formation of Poetic Space Lab. Günersel served as the president of World Writers Association PEN Turkey Center (PEN Writers Association) in two terms from 2007-09 and again from 2011-14. In 2010, he became one of the board members of International PEN. He achieved Rosetta World Literatura Honorary Award in 2016, Rotary Theater Honorary Award in 2016, 10th Ethos Ankara International Theater Festival Honorary Award in 2016, and İIsmet Küntay Best Dramaturgy Award in 2011. This prolific figure recently visited Dhaka to attend the 33rd ‘Jatiya Kobita Utshab’ which was held from February 1-2 at the University of Dhaka. During this tour he also participated in the opening ceremony of Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela. On February 4, he delivered speech as the keynote speaker of a seminar on “Sufi Humanitarian Tradition of Bangladesh and Turkey” held at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA). Günersel also conducted a workshop titled “Performance Art: Creative Living- Drama, Poetry & Philosophy” at the seminar hall of BSA on February 5. This world renowned poet and playwright shared his thoughts with ‘morning tea’ in a recent interview:
You are known as a poet, theatre activist and also as a human rights activist. How do you find yourself in all these roles?“I started my career as a theatre artist. I wrote play and also directed them. Sometimes I wrote screenplay for films and TV dramas. From 1991-2014, I worked as a dramaturge in Istanbul City Theater in Turkey. As I studied English Language and Literature, I penned a lot of stage adaptation of different playwrights in Turkey and also wrote poems and columns for magazines and newspapers. My friend Salman Ada, an eminent music composer, composed a lot of songs and operas written by me. I enjoy all these roles as I do all these works naturally.”
Turkey is a big country. Don’t you think that it’s a huge challenge to reflect the diversity of culture for the director and artist of a country that stands between Eastern Europe and Western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires?
“As an artist I am open to learning from others to create my own artworks. I never limit myself within a country or culture. Throughout my life I have tried to work with a universal idea. If you watch my original plays like ‘Nelo and His Mother’, ‘Mehmed IV’, ‘Tolostoy’, ‘ Theater Water - H2O’, ‘Portraits’ , ‘Millionaire’, ‘Bok Sociology’ and ‘Long Live Insanity’ or adaptations of Harun Özakıncı (Master and Fisherman), Memet Baydur (Tensing), Samuel Beckett (Waiting For Godot), Musahipzade Celal (Monday Thursday), Gurkan Gur ( Metro Monster ), Arthur Miller (All My Son) and Turgut Özakman (Sarıpınar), you will understand this fact. My generation grew up seeing a secular Turkey, albeit Turkey is now struggling for its secular identity. I still believe that my country will get back on the right track.”
You have focused on ‘creative living’ in the recently completed workshop. Can you elaborate your idea about ‘creative living’?
“The title of my workshop was ‘Creative Living-Drama, Poetry & Philosophy’. I mainly highlighted nature and labor. We have to work tirelessly to establish secularism, democracy and humanity in our society and state. Creativity comes naturally, but you have to work hard. If you regularly practice drama, poetry and music, not for your performance but for self-atonement, it can work as a way of meditation and ensure your creative living.”
Would you like to share your impression about Sufism?“I can speak only as a student of Sufism, not an expert. Sufism invites us towards the path of peace. All those features of Sufism are important for life and living. We practice Jalaluddin Rumi’s idea in music, drama and writings. The philosophy of Sufism is nothing but the idea of achieving love, truth and justice.”
How was your experience in Bangladesh?
“Bangladesh is a generous country. Its art, philosophy and economy are good for the future world. People are creative here and they, of course, are very hard working. This delta has all the potentialities to become an example for all the countries that dream of practicing secularism, democracy and humanity.”