A master gourd-lamps artist

Art 13 Apr 2021 Nilanjan Hajra
Reading Corner
gourd-lamps
Decorative handmade calabash gourd water pumpkin lamps hanging on a white tree in front of a calm sea background at sunrise. Photo : Dreamstime

Gourd-lamps? Yes indeed, and that too breathlessly beautiful. That’s what he produces. His name is Nurettin Taskaya. And he is from Mersin, a Turkish city on the Mediterranean Sea. Locally he is known as the Light Painter. Making various articles from the dried gourd is nothing new in Islamic culture. For example, one of the major musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent, the Sitar. It arrived in India from Iran more than half a millennium ago. And it gets its musical resonance totally from a large gourd stuck at the end of a wooden bar, on which the strings are tied over frets. Similarly in Turkey Muslim artisans have long been making gourd-lamps, using a local variety of gourd. Nurettin has mastered that craft and is one of the major artists in gourd-lamps making. This is his story.

The tradition of gourd-lamps

While gourd is a common vegetable across Turkey, the volcanic soil of the Cappadocia region is conducive to the growth of especially huge, orange-skinned gourds. Farms of such gourds are a common sight all over Cappadocia. They have multiple uses. Cattle farms use much of the yield as fodder. Again, before they are fed to the cattle, these gourds are deseeded. And these seeds, sun-dried, are extremely popular and nutritious food items. You can see them in large piles in dry-fruits and nuts shops in Istanbul.

Artisans also use the gourds to make various artifacts, and carefully de-pulp the fruits, and use their shells. Perhaps the most beautiful of them is the gourd-lamps. Not only do the lamps look fascinating when lit, many artists make them in such a way that they create a mesmerizing light-and-shadow effect on the walls of the rooms. Nurettin Taskaya is one such artist.

 Nurettin: life and art

Nurettin was born in Karaman in 1960. He graduated from the Faculty of Forestry at Kradeniz Technical University. In terms of profession, most of his life he was a technologist as a chief in a study project of Kılıçkaya and Çamlıgöze Dam constructions. At the age of 40, in 2000, he retired from his job and devoted full-time to the vocation of making gourd-lamps. This was his hobby, but over time it developed into a professional commitment. On an average Nurettin makes 150 to 200 lamps per month. Each of these, of course, he makes by hand, none of these is even small-scale factory-produced. Hence, each of them is unique in design. He exhibited his artistic pieces in the United States, Canada, China, and other countries. He has also published articles regarding art design.

The artist now has his own gourd farm, and the fruits for all his gourd-lamps come from there. His wife Nese also helps Nurettin in making the gourd-lamps. In fact, the idea of making lamps from the gourds came initially from Nese, said Nurettin to a web portal, “One day, when Nese and I came back from our summerhouse, the gardener gave us some gourds. My wife wanted me to cut the gourds, which I did, and she drew some figures on them. She proceeded to drill in holes and place colourful glass beads in the holes. She lit a candle and it was a really beautiful light.”

 

(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)