Living heritage heals invisible fractures in Eastern Turkey

Mount Holyoke College student Ladin Akcacioglu ’24 shares a first-person experience from a visit to her home country of Turkey last year, witnessing the aftermath of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, with Folklife Magazine.

The lives of more than 13.5 million people across 10 eastern provinces of Turkey were upended when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck on Feb. 6, 2023, claiming the lives of more than 50,000 lives, injuring more than 100,000 and destroying more than 7,000 buildings.

Five months later, Mount Holyoke College student Ladin Akcacioglu ’24, who is an intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., visited her home country. She penned her experience in a story for Folklore Magazine.

“Even then, the air reeked with an unfamiliar putridity — what I later learned was the odor of decaying bodies left under the scorching July heat,” Akcacioglu said. “I had driven 480 miles from my hometown in Antalya to write about the condition of heritage sites, but that seemed less of a priority now.”

In addition to describing the physical wounds inflicted on the Hatay Province, she shares how its diverse inhabitants have stepped up to preserve their way of life beyond state-sanctioned efforts. Through efforts at city council meetings, oral history work, storytelling via the Nehna network and a public forum on Antakya’s living heritage, Akcacioglu said that Hatay has been writing its narrative and, in the words of bell hooks, “talking back.”

She dedicates her story to the resilient women of her country, whose selfless labor, boundless wisdom and kindness are often taken for granted. “Everything I am, everything I do, I owe it to you. Thank you,” she said.

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  • Assistant Director, Public Affairs & Executive Communications