As a metropolis of more than 15 million, Istanbul is a hub where cultures from around the world intersect. There are groups in the city that promote the sharing of culture, and like the city itself, show participants how people are more similar than different and interconnected. With a bit of curiosity and open-mindedness, it is easy to join. Brazilian dance, Georgian art, and Korean language are three of many culture groups in Istanbul that share an interest in an aspect of a country’s culture and build a community around it. The energy and passion each of these groups deliver through their workshops, concerts, and weekly meetings contributes to intercultural learning and exchange.
Dance like a Brazilian
Forró (pronounced faw-haw) is a Brazilian dance that originated in the northeastern heartland of Brazil. It has since spread to cosmopolitan districts around the world and has now found a home in Istanbul. Bengü Gün, the coordinator of Forró Istanbul, fell in love with the spirit of the dance when she visited the Bahía region of Brazil and sought to bring it back home. “Forró makes you feel good, physically and psychologically,” she told The Guide Istanbul. “Even if you don’t understand Portuguese, the lyrics make are light and happy. At Forró Istanbul, we want to share this joy with other people.”
This group started out as a small group of friends who wanted to practice forró on a regular basis. Now, it is in its third year with about 60 regular members. Every two weeks, Forró Istanbul holds classes in Cihangir and interested participants get the first lesson free. The community also organizes workshops and festivals, oftentimes inviting forró masters from Brazil to teach new movements. “Cultural exchange can happen anywhere and anytime,” Nejat Çingi, a member of the group, told The Guide Istanbul. “Thanks to Forró Istanbul, we don’t need to go to all the way to Brazil to learn about a magnificent dance.” For more information on Forró Istanbul’s classes and events, visit forroistanbul.org.
Beyond the borders
A cozy space in Kadıköy where Georgian art, music, and food can be found, Gürcü Sanat Evi, or Georgian Art House, brings together people with a shared interest in Georgian culture. Visitors can browse through a collection of music albums, folk instruments, and traditional costumes. The Georgian Art House has a small stage where a polyphonic choir of around 25 people sing Georgian music. Even if you do not know the language, the music creates a powerful ambiance that typifies the humble and powerful spirit of Georgia.
İberya Özkan, the founder and director of the Georgian Art House, organizes lessons in the Georgian language, arts, and instruments. The musically inclined can learn to play the salamuri, a reeded wind instrument, the panduri, a three-stringed lute, and the doli, a percussion instrument. The venue also provides dance workshops in which the vibrant sounds from Georgia and the wider Caucasus region come to life with sweeping, spinning body movements. This dance may feel familiar for those who know the Black Sea horon dance.
Turkey’s proximity to Georgia has led to a blending of cultures, especially for people like Onur Sarıkaya, one of the choir members, who grew up in Artvin, a province in northeastern Turkey that borders the Black Sea. Sarıkaya told The Guide Istanbul that growing up in that region exposed him to a special blend of Georgian and Turkish culture, each with their distinct styles and both with a meaningful place in the community. To find out more information about upcoming classes and concerts, you can visit the location’s Facebook page, GürcüSanat Evi.
For the love of Korean language
Established by students and Korean language instructors at Boğaziçi University, the Korean Translation Club is a multicultural family that shares its love for Korean language, food, and pop culture. Every Tuesday, members of this informal group meet to improve their Korean language skills by translating different documents, from traditional poems to contemporary K-pop lyrics. The leader of the group, Hwa-Cheon Lee, a Korean language instructor in the Foreign Languages Department, also organizes a variety of activities that foster a family-like environment for members. Together, they cook traditional foods like japchae (Korean glass noodles with stir-fried vegetables) and popular Korean street foods like gimbab (a rice roll similar to sushi) and ddukbokki (spicy rice cakes).
The club also holds a variety of activities and events. Last May, in collaboration with another culture club on campus, they organized the Second Annual Korean Culture Fest. This year, the club is planning to organize cooking events, film screenings, and a sports day, all of which are open to the public. As learning a language is the key to learning a culture, the Korean Translation Club is helping foster global perspectives in students and the wider Turkish community. To get involved with this group, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.