The Turkish Women of Berlin: Food, Photography and Multicultural Identities
Berlin’s community of Turkish immigrants is changing. We spotlight four of the second-generation female entrepreneurs behind ISCHTA, a collaborative project which explores their multicultural identity through food, photography, flowers and traditional textiles.
18 November, 2020
The meaning of being Turkish in Berlin is changing. A new wave of cosmopolitan immigrants from Turkey's larger cities and the second generation of German-Turks are altering the existing perception of Turkishness in Germany. These young Turks, whether they have just arrived or were born and raised in Berlin, are introducing the more modern and creative side of their culture, defying stereotypes and finding their own identity and place in the European realm. Four German-Turkish female entrepreneurs in particular have built their businesses from scratch and have also come together to form ISCHTA, a project which explores their multicultural lives through food.
Photo by Ezgi Polat
Founded by sisters Ezgi and Eda Polat in 2019, the ISCHTA project is an homage to their colourful hometown of Berlin, a photographic celebration of the city's multicultural culinary scene. When cake designer Dilek Topkara discovered the blog in early 2020, she joined the team, exploring and reinterpreting recipes passed down through generations, as well as creating many from scratch. Over time, the blog took on more collaborators including botanic artist Hürriyet Bulan and Beyza Özler, a purveyor of vintage kilims.
Today, the blog is a visual feast of colourful ingredients seasoned with Turkish and Mediterranean influences. Still life shots are a bounty of natural forms and colours. The blog has taken a step into the real world with events, too. The first was a Turkish breakfast at café and atelier Dilekerei, where homemade dishes were served in a space decorated entirely with Özler's vintage kilims and pillows.
"ISCHTA has become far more to us than a blog where we simply share pictures and artwork; it has grown into a dynamic project which embodies our desires for exploration, expression and representation," says Dilek.
Meet the women behind ISCHTA
Photos by Ezgi Polat
Ezgi's love affair with photography began at the age of seven when she discovered her mother's camera. Soon after, she became the official photographer for every family gathering and event, shooting analogue photos that would pave the way for her later career. After studying photography at the Neue Schule für Fotografie, she became a freelance photographer despite the well-known challenges of the profession. Nowadays, she has more than 400,000 Instagram followers and regularly does shoots for tour operators, restaurants and liquor brands. When she's not jet-setting around the globe for her international clients, Ezgi focuses on the more artistic projects in her portfolio which include mesmerizing portrait photography and stills that exude the ethereal in their beauty.
Photos by Melek Özdemir and Ezgi Polat
It's a good thing that Dilek moved away from the scientific side of baking and opened her own shop in Berlin so that the masses could indulge in her edible craft. After studying food science and technology in Berlin and working at leading pastry shops in New York and London, Dilek returned to the German capital to start her own business. With the help of her family and friends, her cafe and atelier Dilekerei opened its doors and grew organically, financed through every cake sold. A cake designer extraordinaire who develops all her own recipes, Dilek also does everything herself by hand, including the minute details of her designs, often inspired by her Turkish heritage. Her wedding cakes are akin to a work of art - if you appreciate great patisserie, her cakes are for you.
Photos by Murat Yılmaz and İzzet Kulaksız
When Beyza moved to Kaş, a small Turkish town, in 2012 with her six-month-old daughter, she set her eyes on kilims for the first time. It was love at first sight; it was a union of her Turkish heritage and her lifelong passion for textiles. She ended up taking a few kilims back to Berlin where they were met with ardent interest. So much interest in fact, that she ended up opening her own shop. Beyza and her team in Istanbul scour Turkey for vintage kilims, which are then washed and restored before they end up at Wild Heart Free Soul, her store in Prenzlauer Berg. Handwoven from hand-spun, naturally dyed sheep's wool, Beyza's kilims are all one of a kind and come in a spectrum of mystic symbols and bold colours. Dedicated to sustainability and fair trade, the kilims undergo a long process before they end up in Berlin, including an around three-month stay in a 'kilim field' where the sun acts as a natural disinfectant and stain remover.
Photos by Hürriyet Bulan
When a florist asked her to work with him 20 years ago, Hürriyet had been hesitant to accept - though it must have been fate; today her life revolves around flowers. She's a designer of floral arrangements and events and a self-taught floral photographer to boot. Her floral studio (not a shop) was something of a novelty when it first opened in Berlin. The designer's lush botanic art has decorated weddings and events such as Berlin Fashion Week. For her photography, Hürriyet's flowers act as models whose delicate details are striking against a black background, a kind of visual journey into the spectacular forms of nature. Yet whatever she does, Hürriyet is a people person, believing the power of flowers lies in their ability to connect humans and spread positivity.