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Here is letter n°40 I just sent to Zehra. To avoid censorship, it was written in Turkish of course, avoiding all words that might “offend” a censor. The reason for publishing it here also is that, with growing international support, we fear increased censorhip against Zehra.Which, more than ever, must encourage us to write to her, and make public the proof of our mailings…


My Zehra,

Yesterday, I learned that some of your drawings were confiscated in October. Don’t be sad. In fact, the most precious part of your work, is when you think out, imagine, and invent techniques to get around the difficulties. Even if they take your work away from you, this will belong to you forever. You pencil, your paintbrush, your strokes, your colors, your compositions, your techniques evolve, Zehra… They go on maturing. Art isn’t static, on the contrary, it changes, it evolves, it transforms itself, just as Life does.

Look at the work of artists over a lifetime. Most of the time, they go through periods. Work from each period flows from a creativity finding fresh sources in different areas of research and techniques. Each work builds up like a bridge toward another, and sometimes, it opens the door to another period. Nothing is lost. You know the principle in chemistry: “Nothing disappears, all is tranformed.”

Don’t some artists choose the ephemeral as a mode of expression? Ice sculpture, sand drawings, balloons set loose in the sky, or allowing their compositions to get blown away by the wind… This is maybe a way to defy time. In fact, in ephemeral art, isn’t the temporary character an integral part of the work?

Last night, I consoled myself by interpreting your current artistic period as a “long-term performance”.

Keep on holding your pencil and searching for your red. In this way, short-lived works also become part of the story, like links in a lengthy performance. Especially if they are filled of  stunning strength, such as yours are. Outside and inside, life flows. May you colors also continue like a flood.

zehra dogan

Did you know your turmeric yellow has arrived and settled in our garden? It only shows up every five or six years. An important part of the leaves stay on the branches when the wind spares the beginning of winter… Which is the case, this year. A stroll in the woods during a turmeric autumn is magical. Especially if the sun shines through the leaves as if to say goodbye. Its rays pierce through branches dappled with yellow like brushstrokes, in an explosion of intense golden light, as if the sun were rising from the very trees.

This year, the trees await, arms open to the sky, with shimmering leaves. The ground is also covered in a blond carpet. But this morning, the sun missed the rendez-vous and we didn’t get to meet this flaming star. I would like to capture it for you. See, this “period” is also “ephemeral”. Because if the sun does not prove gracious, in a few days all the tree leaves will fall to the ground.

The Virginia creeper that covers the garden wall still holds a swarm of red leaves in its heart. But at the top, the branches cascading down like water are all bare. A fresh sadness slowly spreads all around. The last corners for the cats’ games of hide-and-seek are about to be all exposed. The garden is starting to take on its winter silhouette.

We haven’t raked up the leaves yet. We’re waiting for the earthworms and the insects to feast and make the soil fertile. There’s no rush. There’s a full winter ahead of us. And that is also a kind of long-term performance…

Afterward, from the grasses to the vines, from the dove to the ant, all the creatures will be reborn for a new “period” filled with free colors…

I embrace you, with the nostalgia of those beautiful days.


The forest of November

All the articles about Zehra Doğan :
(French, Turkish, English, Kurdish)

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste
Chat de gouttière sans frontières. Journalisme à l'Université de Marmara. Architecture à l'Université de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.