African Women Voices
The first time I came to Istanbul it was 2012. Before that, I had never experienced what it was to be the total center of attention of people. Everywhere I went I was being watched and called “Arab” or “Beyonce”. Arab is the name Turkish used to give to every foreigner back in the Ottoman period, while Beyonce was the only black woman well-known. Unfortunately I am told by an African woman who has lived in Istanbul for the past six months, the most famous black women these days are prostitutes. It wasn’t unfrequent for her to be called in the street and asked “sex, sex, how much?”
Back in 2012 I haven’t seen many Africans, in fact I could count them on one hand. Today it seems different: I came back to investigate the African community here for the documentary series (IN)VISIBLE CITIES, and if my memory serves me well, I can see more Africans now than ever. Gladly, the attention on me has decreased but the looks continues both from Turkish and Africans. The first maybe wonder whether I am as well a prostitute or god knows what other funny things, the latter might think “oh, there she is! Another one of us!” These are of course just speculations I’ll be happy to deny or confirm once we start filming. One thing must be said though, Africans are not the only black here, there are Afro-Turks and African-Americans too, in this sea of blackness it’s hard to live on stereotypes.