Gallipoli – a cultural connection

Lone Pine Gallipoli - a panorama

Lone Pine Gallipoli - a panorama

So much of my thinking leading up to this trip has focused on how to engage with Turkey as cultural strangers, as people who have no direct connection to the culture and history of this foreign land. This has been an ongoing subject in many conversations about our collaboration – exploring how we can create work that was more than a tourist observation, a skimming of the surface so to speak.

Our experience at Gallipoli challenged some of these assumptions today, as the history of this site has a narrative that is central to the national identity of Australia. What I was not ready for, was the impact that this place would have on me. This story is one that I have known my whole life, even though I have no direct relatives who served at Gallipoli.

Perhaps why I was overwhelmed by my visit to this site, was not only because Gallipoli figures so prominently as part of the Australian national identity but because of how this event has tied together multiple national histories – most significantly the ANZACs (Australia and New Zealand) and Turkey. What evolved from this bloody World War One conflict is a firm friendship between nations joined together in mourning and loss. What I also found very interesting was how the ANZACs and Turks would share with each other – throwing canned food and bags of tobacco to each other in the trenches.

Statue of Turkish soldier carrying a wounded Australian soldier

Statue of Turkish soldier carrying a wounded Australian soldier

In 1934 Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) wrote a tribute to the ANZACs killed at Gallipoli, which is featured on a memorial at Anzac Cove:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well.

This inscription also appears on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Canberra.

For me, what was most touching about the visit to Anzac Cove and Lone Pine was the respectful way our tour guide, Ganul discussed the events. As we left Lone Pine, Ganul put Eric Bogel’s ‘And the Band played Waltzing Matilda’, asking people to ‘please don’t cry’. I am sorry Ganul, but I am certain there were many tears quietly shed as we drove through the beautiful hills surrounding this memorial site.

Here is The Pogue’s version of Bogel’s famous tune: