Voices of hope

For International Women’s Day: The feminist power of Fazıl Say’s song cycle »Dünya Anne«

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, Fazıl Say composed the song cycle »Dünya Anne« (World Mother) in 2023, inspired by female poets who experienced the country’s developments at different times. Their lyrics deal with pain, oppression, the forces of nature and personal difficulties, but also with hope for a better tomorrow. On International Women’s Day, we take a closer look at this feminist program and look at eleven courageous women who not only defy the tight corset of convention, but also write about it.

Early female empowerment

Among them is Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Persian modernism's most influential female poets. Born in the 1930s, she was the first Iranian woman to write about female longings and desires, breaking all conventions and fleeing to Europe in 1956 to escape the hostility in her country. But she continued to write and sparked heated debates with her radical verses about discrimination against Iranian women. Like Farrokhzad, the poet Şükûfe Nihal Başar also brought about profound changes in the self-image of Persian women. Başar fought to abolish gender segregation at universities, was the first female graduate of the »Darülfünun« university, and co-founded the Women's Union in the still-young Turkish Republic. She never gave up her fight for equal rights - just like Gültin Akin, who addresses the female perspective of traditional, patriarchal society in her poetry. In »Dünya Anne«, these verses express the desire for freedom of these three women.

»And when I say 'I', I mean everyone.«

The poem by pop singer Sezen Aksu captures current events. The artist published a song lyric in 2022 for which she was threatened and sued for insulting Islam. Numerous artists showed solidarity with her, including Fazıl Say. He set her poem »Hunter« to music in response to President Erdoğan's threat to silence Aksu. Ece Temelkuran also shows inner strength as a reaction to hardship. The investigative journalist responds to the current harshness of Erdoğan's policies with dignity and hope. She holds on to the unifying dream of a democratic Turkey. This unifying hope is also described by the award-winning author Birhan Keskin in her poem »Su« (water). She visualizes the horror that - experienced and seen - resulted in harsh words and yet ultimately can only be endured with this dream in one's heart.

From darkness to light

When Selenay Kübra Koçel puts the Kahramanmaraş earthquake into words, she understands the pain of hundreds of thousands of people. Didem Madak writes about deep, helpless sadness and the longing for maternal security, the gloom of which is overshadowed by the loneliness of Nilgün Marmara's verses. These women, whose high intellect and desire for freedom made them lonely, write their lives back to themselves. The boundary between poetry and life does not exist, as feminist Bejan Matur proves in her columns in her commitment to making personal stories and traumas visible. And when Ayten Mutlu, in her hymn for the 100th anniversary, calls on us to feel joy despite the sadness »for many more centuries«, then it becomes clear that the song cycle »Dünya Anne« not only makes the voices of women who fought relentlessly for their dignity resound but also gives a sound to female virtues and the natural elemental force of love - the sound of hope.

Experience this rousing work, sung by Serenad Bağcan, on June 7 in the Karlskaserne. The European premiere will be followed by a meet-and-greet. You can already get a first impression of »Fazıl Say Friends«.