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The Gate of Mystery: YAQTO

Posted by in STORY OF YAKTO on June 11, 2014 . 0 Comments.

Essay and Photos:
Ender Özbay (Ege University Graduate School of Social Sciences, Department of Art History- Research Assistant;

The road connecting Yakto to Antioch, entrance of the village...

It is night time in Yaqto… Yaqto… A mystery beyond epoches… And now, mingling pitch-darkness with the whiteness of the fog, it’s building hazy walls before my thoughts… I need to set out to thinking with the rhythm of the night. Maybe this is the right way.

Maqam Nebi Idris viewed from the window of a ruined old village house.

Trraqq trruqq trraqq trruqq… These sounds, linking today with the past, mingle, clash, hit and turn back, break down, entangle, mix, then leave themselves to the wind and disperse in it, then ravel; go further, and come back, go further, and come back…trraqq trruqq trraqq trruqq goes the shuttle, trraqq trruqq trraqq trruqq comes the shuttle. It enjoys the unique privilege of being on both sides of the haze…It certainly has to keep up with the rhythm of these sounds, which mingle the past with present, forming a gate through yesterday.

Trraqq trruqq... Rugs are woven on looms, sheets are woven; it is as if they were woven out of sounds… Trraqq trruqq… It is not the rug that is being woven, but my thoughts on both sides of the haze…

It is the dawn time in Yaqto… Sounds are increasing… A silhouette in the twilight is humming prayers with a censer in her hand, rushing in the streets, consecrating them… Hasan Usta, the silk weaver is on his way to Maqam Nebi Idris for supplication…  The incense odours mingle with the sounds, sounds mingle with supplications, supplications mingle with prayers, and the intricate patterns of my thoughts are being loomed… On one hand, I watch the glorious dawn, browsing through the valley downwards, towards Antakia, then upwards toward Daphne, then beyond it to Casius, then to Jabal Musa; as the Amanus Mountains catch my hazel eyes, I remark: I am after the mystery… “I am at the threshold of “The Gate of Mystery”.

Dyring red pepper lined on ropes. (Sena' Özbay)

I am not there to build up the mystery, neither to enjoy the ecstatic pleasure of meddling with the mystery and blurring! I am there to sculpt the light out of the mystery! As the ancestors say “If an evil is to come; it comes out of one’s own self”. Knots of the mystery will be untied by the hands of the mystery itself… I am looking for its hands. It beholds the exclusive answers that will disperse the darkness… I am on a snaillike and challenging walk at the threshold of “The Gate of Mystery” to sculpt the light it will untie out of itself. I am struggling under too much load, with questions piling up in my palms and haste gradually approaching my legs… And I’m running snaillike on the steep slopes of time to get beyond the haze walls and finally through the “Gates of Mystery”…  

The First Gate

Mehmet-Aziz Özbay brothers, carrying a warp prepared in a different location to be used in their looms. 1980’s.

I need to keep pace with Hasan Usta’s steps, get intoxicated with the odour of the incense, steer for Maqam Nabi Idris1, reach at its door after a thorough observation of the surroundings, unwind the floc of questions in the presence of Idris and set out to unwinding it solely with the wisdom of yarns and weaver’s sagacity… As, while spinning yarns of the destiny just like Moiras, yarns have become Yaqto’s destiny…

As if Hasan Usta, the silk-weaver himself knows what he has all his life -no matter what time it is- been doing and why he steers to Maqam Nabi Idris for a visit with a censer in his hand while humming prayers by the sunrise. It has been a tradition from his ancestors, but what is it, and what is the reason for it?

Ali Güzelmansur, carrying a warp in the same way with the help of children. 2008.

As we know, throughout Hatay (and probably Anatolia), Yaqto is the only place which has Maqam Nabi Idris. In this area, where cultural transition and diversity can be traced both on a demographic and historical basis, Idris has become the Islamic counterpart of an ancient mythological figure; has constituted the ritual side of the weaving activity which constituted the main dynamic of the socio-economic life, and  has also become a phenomenon crystalized within the culture of weaving.

As thick tomes and dictionaries corroborate it: Idris is a Jewish prophet known in the three divine religions and his name appears in the Torah as “Hanok”.  He is believed to have lived for 356 years and to have been made immortal and ascended to the heaven by God. He is deemed to be the first person to write and to sew. It is related that he was born in Egypt. On the other hand, these attributes are totally identical with those attributed to Hermes by the Egyptians, the same Hermes whom we recognize from the Greek mythology as The Messenger of Gods. It is as if this mythological figure (Hermes) had not been forgotten by peoples and resurrected within the Islam religion…
So, is it really a coincidence that, within the vast lands surrounding Antakya, Maqam Prophet Idris is in Yaqto? What if people of Yaqto regarded the first sewer/ weaver Idris as their master, built a maqam for him and constructed the village around this maqam since weaving encircles their lives and they spend all their day with it.  It is very likely.
Let us follow the sounds arising towards the sky, reach there, and wind the yarns of destiny at the spindle of our writing:  

Pit-treadle Loom aka “Nol”. Probably 1900’s... (Matson Photograph Collection;

What a suffering work weaving is! All family members, from the oldest to the youngest help one another and share the work to be able to ready it in due time… Only hardworking hands and patient hearts can handle it. People of Yaqto have gone to Cilicia and Amuq to work as laborers on cotton fields for centuries. Then they get back and set about processing what land has gifted them…

Daya Büyükaşık kirman ile ipek eğiriyor. (2005).

Cotton fluffers comb out the crude cotton, beat it, puff it, and make it flocs. And now, everything starts with a cotton ball… The quick hands of old women put the cotton ball on a distaff, pull a bundle of fiber out of it wind its ends ınto the spindle.  As the wooden spindle is rapidly rotated and suspended, the yarn twists around itself and winds around the spindle. The person who spins has to pull cotton from the distaff constantly, spin the spindle, and be careful that the yarns are not cut off and they are twisted at the same thickness.  This same work has after a certain time been performed using a spinning wheel. The person using the tool holds the spindle in her/his left hand, spins the wooden wheel with her/his right hand, and the spindle, fastened to the wheel with a belt spins with the Wheel.

The yarns, now in the form of a hank, are washed and dyed. They are sometimes soaked in bleacher, or if they are to be dyed, they are soaked in previously boiled natural dyes… Then they are spread and dried on roofs. And now the time comes to prepare the yarns for use on the looms as warp and weft yarns. The yarns unwound from the hanks by the wheels are spun around the cones which will be put into the hand bobbins for the weft. For the warp, though, yarns are wound around giant and heavy drums called medde (warp beams)… These are all challenging tasks which require mastership and a large area.   

Esma Baklacı (yöresel adıyla Esma l’Bociy), çıkrık (dulâb) ile mekiklerin içine konulacak masuraları hazırlıyor. (1950’li yıllar.) Bu çıkrıkla sarılan masuralar, “nol” denilen tezgahta dokuma yapılırken tezgahın iple sarkıtılmış kolu hızla çekildiğinde bir o yana bir bu yana gidip gelen mekiklerin içine konulur. Mekiklerin hep tekrar eden bu hareketiyle, masuralara sarılı “atkı ipi”, dikey çözgü ipleri arasından yatay olarak geçirilmiş olur; böylece –en kaba haliyle- dokuma gerçekleşir.

Finally, the work is at the looms. Until the 70’s when the electricity was supplied to the area, various products ranging from lining fabric to bed nets, cloths, keffiyehs, fabric belts, canvas cloths, bed sheets, curtains, shirts, shalwars, and dress fabrics  were manufactured at manual looms which are called “nol” and which have several variations such as “the rapier loom” commonly known in Anatolia as “manual loom” (on which weft yarns are interlaced with warps using shuttles, the shuttles are picked as the rapiers are taken up), “the pit-treadle loom” (the weavers seat and the place of pedals are in a pit), and “high looms”. After the supply of electricity sheets, quilts and rugs also started to show up among the previous products with the advent of jacquard looms operating with electricity which has become commonly used since then. Silk weaving which has completely different challenges has also been made; silk is most commonly used for scarves, kaftans, shemags, and shalwars.  And again, the shuttle labors in turns, day and night, producing the trraqq truqq sound. Yaqto weaves not only yarns, but its destiny as well.  

For how long have people in Yaqto been engaged with weaving? Court records, provincial annual reports as well as some other archives reveal that all the plain was covered with mulberry trees, and silk weaving was a very prevalent business in the area, the Ottoman Empire also made serious investments on it, and that the business was introduced by the Armenian; however, by the 19th and 20th centuries, the Nusayris took up the business and became its masters. Yet who knows if Yaqto is as old as the story of Prophet Idris, or whether it is older.

Selim Büyükaşık preparing the strings for the wrap. 2003.

What kind of a wisdom, or universe, how many thousands of miles more? One cannot go beyond this gate, even if she/ he does, there may not be a way back… After bowing and scraping, it is already time to leave… But I mind it: one cannot turn his/ her back to the maqam while leaving. This is the custom. As I leave the tomb, I catch sight of the Arabic script on the arch, even though I will not understand what it says, a voice whispers: “(…) and Prophet Idris, all the nine universes ascended and declared that his words are healing, he cured illnesses. (…) Yaqto, may God render his beneficence everlasting. Year: 1307.”  


Selim Büyükaşık, dokuma öncesi, iplik “çile’lerini daha da beyazlaştırmak ve temizlemek için, belirli bir karışım oranındaki çamaşır suyunun içinde çiğniyor, bekletiyor, ardından dama serip kurutuyor. (1999)

The Second Gate
How can one simply imagine that millions of colorful cubes, each one not longer than one centimeter, would be gathered, assembled and stuck together to tell the legend of Yaqto’s “old times” that vanished long ago within the soil in a poetic voice?

A woman figure right in the middle of a medallion has a cup on her laps, there are grains in the cup, a fistful of which she also has in her right hand. She shows them to us. A script on it: Megalopsychia; ‘sublimity of the soul’…A confusion, a rush, a war, a hunt in the medallion… Courageous and gallant hunters fighting in the middle of thousands of sturdy wild animals in the wild forest. Among them Adonis, Narcissos…

Within a curb framing all these scenes, fractions from daily life… Villas that no longer exist… Upon them are written their owners’ names. A servant carries a package, a man in charge awaits to express his appreciation to the donator in front of a building with the title “public hammam”.   A man sells food on a stand on a roadside of the promenade. Right near him are two men playing a game, something like draughts or dominoes… Then comes a workshop where pilgrim signs and religious icons are manufactured, with its owner Markellinos resting with his dog at one side and his apprentice serving him a drink. We go a bit further, where there is a group of people watching the olympic stadium; among them a man, and two women: one old, and the other young.

Şaban Süner House with a monumental plane tree. (Local name Beyt Çennuk)

What an impressive story of life in this vicinity! The Archeology unit revealed the thousands of years’ human activities, their efforts, homes, and the city from the earth which swallowed them… The name of this mosaic is “Yaqto Mosaic”, it constitutes one of the most magnificent and splendid mosaics of Antakya Archeological Museum. It is named after the place it was revealed- Yaqto. So now, it’s time for us to think… What kind of a wisdom, or universe, how many thousands of miles more? One cannot go beyond this gate, even if she/ he does, there may not be a way back… Before we turn perplexed, let’s get out of this gate…


Entrance of Maqam Nebi İdris

The Third Gate
The face of a city, a village, a neighborhood, or a street is the reflection of its people. It is such that, people engrave –whether on purpose or not- their own faces upon the forehead of a city, a village, a neighborhood, or a street.  They engrave their own hearts and voices on façades and on stones of houses. Inside the houses are like the inner states of their people. Their gardens and yards are like people’s longing and desires. You actually discover the hearts of people when you walk the streets and visit houses of a migrated community or a very ancient generation, but with eyes that really see. Every house has a song indeed, a song that you feel by intuition; every building and street has a word to say; all you need to do is stand there, and listen…  

Architecture is not only an incident, but also a phenomenon that surrounds us. It is certainly those people who generated architecture as an ‘incident’ or ‘phenomenon’ that surrounds all these phenomena; and also one that is shaped by it. It is those people: the field workers, carpenters, stonemasons, workers at yarn and silk workshops, those who engage with livestocks; sheep flocks and horses, those engaging with birds, herbs, flowers, and the soil, those who cook a variety of herbs, vegetables, and meat in huge caldrons, those who sprawl bulghur on their roofs, and dry peppers in the sun, and cook bread in floor furnaces, those who make soaps from laurel oil, drums from donkey leather, and pipes out of bones/ reeds, those who sing, dance, tell mâni2,  make up legends and stories, hum prayers, and those who have a variety of beliefs and related rituals, as well as a family and social order.

İsmail Öztoprak weaving basket from reeds (1993).

As an ‘incident’, for instance, Süleyman Buz, 1930, a construction master answers my questions with excitement: “When a house is to be built, everybody gets excited. Architect- master usually guides the business; but the work is mostly done by the neighbors and house owners rather than the few number of construction workers and apprentices. There are generally an architect and a stonemason at the construction. For example- I never forget it- While building Nurettin Aynacı’s house, during which my brother performed as the chief master, maybe 100-150 people worked there; the construction area looked like an ant nest…’

Yaqto Mosaic in Antakya Archaelogy Museum from 5th century.

I stand before these stone houses each of which has a certain characteristic, and resists the grim and languid ferroconcrete piles.

Most of these houses form a plan scheme (tavle) of a straight line of chambers. Those rooms, each serving a different purpose, are lined according to a hierarchical order: From one end respectively: a barn, a storehouse, a loom/ weaving room, a living room, and at the other end, a two-floor main room (avda) with all its dignity. With a straight stone face, a monumental façade, wooden balcony (livan) and sometimes a pool in the front, the avda forms the most painstaking and outstanding part of the construction; because it is the father, the head, the master of the building…

Carpenter and builder Diyap Büyükaşık.

Some houses are so much attentively constructed; just like clothing a bride. The arches on their doors, façade ornaments, rubbed engravings, beautiful wooden windows, engraved window sashes, wrought iron works and yards covered with nice fruit trees (cneyne) added to their graceful appearance.  On the other hand, they have the manner of having come from the same essence as the land they are on, the earth, the atmosphere they enjoy, and the flora; they move in a manner of a fresh beauty; rather than an artificial foreignness.

Detail from the sidelinings of Yaqto Mosaic.

Don’t keep staring; you might hurt them! Go, approach, touch their walls, take a rest and talk before their doors, ask how they are, do not hesitate to enter, you can turn back when you want after all, and you will also be loved, cared, hosted and welcomed well in this “gate”…

& & &

It is already the dawn in Yaqto… Where am I? What time is this?

No matter how many charms Yaqto has worn, shall we take them off all, shall we pronounce the name “Gümüşgöze”, and mention that its elevation is 170 meters, and its coordinates are  36°08’ N. - 36°07’ E; shall we just spontaneously put a ruler on the map, and say that it is just 7 kilometers in the south of Antakya?

Nurettin Aynacı Evi’nde, giriş kapısı üstündeki atkı taşında ve yanlarında kabartmalı bitkisel motifler.
Köyün tahminen 1800’lere kadar geri giden en eski yapılarından biri olan Ahmet Aşkar Evi’nin düzgün kesme taş kaplanmış görkemli cephesi. Rozet şeklinde kabartmalı süslemesi, yuvarlak kemerli açıklıkları, kaş kemerli kuş tâkaları, şimdi boşlukta duran iri ahşap konsolların (taşıyıcı direkler) kanıtladığı üzere bir zamanlar üst mekanın önünde bulunan balkonu ile bu kısım, aslında uzunlamasına devam eden büyük bir evin avda denilen gösterişli bölümüdür.
Köyün geleneksel konut mimarisini yansıtan önemli örneklerden biri, Mehmet Aynacı Evi. “Tavle” denilen ve uzunlamasına devam eden tek katlı bölümü yıkılmış, iki katlı, balkonlu düzenlemesiyle daha gösterişli olan ve avda denilen bölümü kalabilmiştir.
Last update: September 18, 2014


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