Promoting culture to build bridges: Interview with Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan

Promoting culture to build bridges: Interview with Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan

December 04, 2017
  • Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan

With a focus on “Old, new, eternal” or “Ortak nesiller entegrasyonu” (“the integration of joint generations),” Turkey ONE Association aims to protect and promote Turkish culture and heritage and build bridges between Turkey and countries around the world.

The association’s founder and president, Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, explains how.

How did the idea of Turkey ONE Association come about? What were you hoping to achieve collectively and what are ONE’s most significant achievements to date? 

The Turkey ONE Association is an organization established in 2014 that works to promote Turkey internationally and protect the country’s cultural heritage, historical and natural wealth, and the common values that bring us together. Collectively, we are working to set an example as leaders in promoting Turkey’s cultural, social, and economic strengths. One of our most significant achievements is the Mosaic Road project, raised  awareness of the importance of mosaics found around Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa, and Gaziantep. We also worked with local communities to protect and promote this valuable heritage. We have presented this project in Gstaad, Switzerland; Venice, Italy; Paris, France; and New York, United States. We also had a Göbeklitepe project, where in 2014 we brought members of the Turkish media to the archeological site in Şanlıurfa dating back to the Neolithic era and held meetings with UNESCO officials about the site. 

As far as lobbying for cultural heritage preservation is concerned, how did the process change over the years in Turkey? What are the biggest challenges to Turkey ONE’s work today? 

Over the years, people in Turkey have come to understand how lobbying can make real results when it comes to cultural heritage preservation. By making strong and sustainable relationships and creating powerful and persuasive arguments, we are Turkey’s best advocate. The biggest challenge to our work today may be financing. While lobbying is not about financing alone, a certain level of funding is needed to be effective and get results. 

How does the Mosaic Road project fit in global practices of heritage preservation awareness? Is there international interest in the subject? What feedback did you receive after your presentation in New York? 

The Mosaic Road project fits into global practices of heritage preservation awareness because it’s based in a region of the world in which people are very interested, a region at the center of the Abrahamic religions and countless civilizations. Through the Mosaic Road project, people from around the world can see their past and understand their future. These mosaics are of great value and contain invaluable information about our political and social past. We received very positive feedback from our presentation. Participants recognized the value and importance of these cultural artifacts and we are looking to continue promoting their importance in other venues.

What examples of good practices in cultural preservation have captured your attention? Which ones of those could be successfully implemented in Turkey as well? 

We have been studying how non-governmental organizations abroad promote cultural preservation and have close relationships with many of them, adopting their good practices. Imperative to good practices is raising awareness among the locals of the importance and potential of relics and pieces of heritage; this we strive to do. 

What will be the follow-up of the New York Global Hope Coalition Summit? Are there long-term collaboration goals for Turkey ONE and Global Hope Coalition? If so, in what way?

We introduced our Mosaic Road project at the Global Hope Coalition Summit, an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly held in New York in September. We introduced the unique mosaics found in Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep, and Şanlıurfa to participants in the summit. The summit’s keynote speakers included presidents and heads of state of seven countries, former US First Lady Laura Bush, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and renowned actor and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker. We were the only participating Turkish association and were able to raise awareness amongst these people and others about our mosaics. To follow up with this, we will work with the Global Hope Coalition to reach out to the right people to increase awareness worldwide. Individual friendships and relationships created during these days will have positive effects moving forward. 

In your opinion, what is the most important role of a modern-day culture/heritage patron? Why is it relevant for influential people to get involved in raising awareness? 

In my opinion, the most important role of a modern-day culture/heritage patron is a spokeswoman (or man), is an advocate who will dedicate a lifetime of hard work and commitment. Throughout my life, I have worked—and will continue to work—to get results. Influential people should use their fame to create awareness around these issues. 

Where do you see Turkey ONE in 10 years? What are the association’s long-term goals? 

Turkey ONE will continue working to make a positive impact and protect and promote our cultural heritage. Turkey ONE’s activities will undoubtedly touch everyone’s lives at one point and we will continue to raise awareness and interest.


Editor's note: The original version of this article was published in the November/December 2017 issue of the magazine and has been reformatted in its online version.