Remembering Gallipoli – But How?

Last weekend, I visited “remembering Gallipoli” exhibition at Sydney’s Customs house which was held to commemorate the Gallipoli campaign. It included 20-30 photos each showing a picture of a soldier who fought in the battle projected by exhibiting photos each showing a projected picture of a soldier who fought at the battle with one or two of his descendants. Each photo is accompanied by a caption note describing the name, profession and relationship of the soldier and his descendant.

The aim of the artist, Mine Konakci, of this exhibition is claimed to be: “to rekindle the powerful connection and dialogue between the three societies”. I seriously doubt that the best way to achieve that aim is by reminding those societies of their wars. It’s like showing pictures of Holocaust to rekindle the powerful connection and dialogue between Jewish communities (like Israel) and Germany.

Other than the weirdness of the aim and mediocre-to-poor quality of the whole exhibition, there was something abnormal going on that caught my attention. After reading the captions of photos, I came to realise that the occupations of almost all Turk soldiers were recorded “soldier” (the only exceptions were one judge, one teacher and one barber-farmer). On the other side, almost none of Australia-New Zealanders (Anzacs) was a professional soldier (the closest exception was a policeman).

The reason for this can be one or a combination of the following:

  • Ottoman Empire only used professional soldiers in the battles and no one volunteered or was forced to participate in the war
  • The living Turks, who participated in this exhibition, had no clue what their ancestors actually did for living.
  • Australians and New Zealanders volunteered or were forced to go to war
  • Intentional attempt to clear the past by descendants who are against war or aware of the bad connotations of actively participating in wars.
  • An attempt to dehumanise the enemy: We were forced to war but the “others” were all professional soldiers and they chose to be killed.

I’m not in the position to confirm any of the possibilities and leave the final decision to you. And just to conclude, here is my favourite in the whole exhibition:

A philanthropist serving at Otago Mounted Rifles.

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5 thoughts on “Remembering Gallipoli – But How?

  1. Our memory of Gallipoli – on both sides of the Tasman – is wrapped in its own mythology. It’s hard to cut through the layers, sometimes; and from what you report, this exhibition doesn’t particularly seem to have pushed far into them. But that’s understandable. It’s the same here in New Zealand, where memory is framed around some quite cliched impressions. I disputed those in a book I wrote about five years ago (‘Shattered Glory’, Penguin 2010), and I dispute them now.

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  2. That final comment from the descendant of the Otago philanthropist sums it up for me. I’ve written and thought about Gallipoli quite a lot, due to discovering a gt uncle from Cheshire who had, for reasons never mentioned in the family, enlisted with AIF at the age of 18, and then, having died of wounds in an idiotic offensive was disposed of at sea at the age of 19. He had no descendants in consequence. The thing that somehow gets obscured in all the commemoration is that individual politicians, rulers and military types decided it was all right to send million upon million of their most fit and talented men and boys to their certain deaths. The barbaric and criminal madness of these decisions is never the focus of attention. One does not have to look far to see why. Perhaps we should look at photos of the armaments manufacturers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re completely right. There is no doubt about the bravery of the soldiers but the sad part is why they have to be sacrificed, and in a way wasted, for the purposes of some politicians. I think this should be remembered every year at Anzac day.

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