Pazartesi, 5 Aralık 2022
Pazartesi, Aralık 5, 2022
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🗺 Soli is at the 17th Istanbul Biennial: Balat

Six neighbourhoods to host the 17th Istanbul Biennial: Balat, Çemberlitaş, Sıraselviler, Tophane, Yeldeğirmeni, Zeytinburnu. We are wandering the city we live in as travellers. Today the route takes us to: Balat
Together with Koç Holding x İstanbul Bienali

Koç Holding welcomes art enthusiasts to the 17th Istanbul Biennial Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) since 1987 and sponsored by Koç Holding since 2007, the 17th edition of the Istanbul Biennial continues. The Biennial, which will be open to public visit until 20 November , is prepared with a different approach in this edition due to the pandemic precautions as well as its one-year delay. The 17th Istanbul Biennial meets its viewers in various spots of the city such as bookstores, hospitals, nursing homes, cafes, metro stations, and Açık Radyo. An avid supporter of culture and arts, Koç Holding is happy to sponsor the Istanbul Biennial by 2036. To find the short film focusing on the healing and transformative qualities of art, you may visit this link.

Learn more

Between September 17 and November 20, we stroll around Balat, Çemberlitaş, Sıraselviler, Tophane, Yeldeğirmeni and Zeytinburnu for the 17th Istanbul Biennial. This year’s Biennial takes its inspiration from compost, a natural fertilisation method in which many different organic wastes are brought together and decomposed. We stroll around these neighbourhoods one more time, but this time for the Biennial, we enter streets we frequent less, and peek through the doors of the buildings whose names we have just heard of. This time, we let our eyes roam over the city we are native of, like travellers. When our feet get tired, but not our minds, we catch our breath in a café where locals sit. It is the curiosity that makes our feet stand back up again. We feel homely and then unhomely again. We swing around the authentic and the cliché, the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the nostalgic and the futuristic, between the black and the white of the six neighbourhoods where the 17th Istanbul Biennial is spread.

‘Can the streets be audible and/or silent narrators of the neighbourhood at the same time?’. This question is on our minds as we traverse the streets again and again. We continue on our route through artisan and artist workshops, streets, parks, restaurants, shops, and cultural centres to better understand and read the neighbourhoods and become a participant in their everyday culture.

The colorful buildings of Balat

We start the day at the The Çinili Hammam. First, we enjoy a cup of hot tea and grilled cheese on wicker stools. Then in the colourful streets, we play ‘What is inside?’ at the entrance of Jerusalem Church (Kudüs Kilisesi), we come to the theatre at Yuvakimyon Highschool, grab a cheese plate for ourselves at Zoks’ ceramic workshop, then sit and read at the Women's Works Library and Information Center Foundation

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Soli team


Balat Route from Çinili Hamam to Women’s Works Library

We started our exploration at The Çinili Hamam and walked to the Women's Works Library with pickle juice glasses in our hands and children's laughter in our ears.

Biennial venues

Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamamı: A bathhouse that welcomes both men and women. Are you ready to get your fill of art thanks to the ‘multi-purpose event space’ within its brick walls?

The Çinili Hamam: One of the most important buildings by Mimar Sinan. It still preserves its double bath feature. The tiles are only in the men's section today. We are sure that you will be mesmerised when you step inside.

Restaurants and cafés

Tahta Minare Çay Evi (Tea house): A place for brewed tea and grilled cheese with kaşar. On your way back, you can stop by the Minik Kalpler on the same street and treat the children of the neighbourhood to some hot soup.

Minik KalplerA building on Yıldırım Street with toys hanging from the windows. It was set up for the children of the neighbourhood and migrant children who visit. They distribute free soup for the little ones all day long. You can donate your cousin's, your brother's or your own toys and clothes here. One day you will see them on or in the hands of a dimpled, cheerful child, which will add so much more to your memory of the item.

Minik Kalpler at Yıldırım Street

Agora Meyhanesi 1890: Rakı, fish, mezze, melon. You can enjoy your drink by gazing at the neighbourhood from inside a historic building where everything inside is made of wood. Attention though, these don’t belong to a TV set, these are real memories unique to a real neighbourhood culture.

Smelt & Co.: We are not here to select the best of Istanbul but Smelt & Co. is one of the bests of Istanbul in both food and experience. Reservations are a must to taste the recipes that Sinan and Samet Chefs created by blending their culinary experiences abroad with the food culture of Istanbul. And to watch the sunset from the terrace.

Forno: Trabzon cheese pita or lahmacun. Whichever you prefer, it's hot from the oven and the dough is crispy. It's as simple as a small diner, and a must for lunch.

Coffee Department: Coffee Department, which we are familiar with from Nişantaşı, is a coffee shop designed in the spirit of the neighbourhood, which from the outside looks more like a neighbourhood coffee house than a third wave coffee shop - and that's a compliment. Stop by for good coffee and sweet, fresh snacks. Our favourite is the coffee from Peru El Remanzo. 

Ada Ev Yemekleri:  You are welcome here for a vegetarian menu. The okra and chickpeas are unique.

Sahan Ev Yemekleri: Kavurma pilav and kuru fasülye (traditional roasted rice and baked beans)? Only Sahan will suffice.

Muhit: Homemade chocolate lemon cake. Do we need to say more?


Sevda Gazozcusu (Soda shop): No need to explain, you know you are at the right place the moment you see it. Baskets full of soda caps and all kinds of bottles make up the walls of the shop. They offer the original recipe to first-time visitors. Those with a sweet tooth are in luck.

Sevda Gazozcusu (Soda shop)

Evin Unlu Mamülleri: Aniseed crackers and crunchy simit. And then there's the smell that takes over the whole street.

İbrahim Hakkı Tarihî Börek Fırını: Next to Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamam. A family business that bakes pastry, bread and pita bread in their historical wood oven. Warm and crispy.  

Meşhur Balat Turşucusu (Pickle shop): Let's warn you in advance that there will be a line in front of it whenever you go. You can take it to go and eat while touring the neighbourhood, or you can take it home in vacuumed packs. We can guarantee that once you taste the trio of pickled greengages, cabbage and bitter pickle juice, you will never crave anything else again.

Kulis Vintage: It wouldn't be false or misleading to say that it is one of the most comprehensive vintage clothing stores in Istanbul. It is possible to find not only ‘cool’ and oversize grandpa shirts, but also leather jackets, jeans, and glasses in very good condition. 

Artisan and artist workshops

Camhane: Bending and twisting glass? All while watching and learning. We set ourselves an ambitious goal of making ourselves an elephant, what's yours?

Klasik Tabela Workshop: In case you want to buy signs to hang in your home or studio. The creations are shaped by your desires. You should already be on your way to surprise a friend by immortalising an inside joke. There is so much to choose from, decorate, and customise.

Zoks Studio: Zoks offers courses every day of the week. She believes that touching the clay by hand relieves stress, and it really does. First, we make glass, next, a vase, and we will shape it in whichever way our hearts desire. You don’t have to get your hands dirty, it is also possible to buy and take home the ceramic plates and glasses that Neslişah makes that are far from perfection and bear the fingerprint of the producer.

Zoks Studio display


Yuvakimyon Highschool: It welcomes you as a ruined building on the left at the beginning of a steep slope. At certain times of the year, theatre plays are performed under the name Monologlar Müzesi (Museum of Monologues). There are fifteen-minute monologues in each classroom, when the play ends the school bell rings and you, not them, change your room and give yourself to a different story.

Popstel BalatThe tiled walls almost reference the  Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Fener Rum Patrikhanesi), which you can see from the balconies. It is so comfortable that if you are in a crowded group, you can chat without having to break off. It is also one of the rare ‘European’ hostels in Istanbul. Whether you want to visit or stay. And you can't leave without browsing through old books at Popstel Vintage & Old Books.

Jerusalem Church: The building is affiliated with Jerusalem. It's only open one day a year. April 23rd. You can still go there on other days and chat with Uncle Hüseyin, the caretaker. We also heard there are goats in the garden but we didn't see them.

Cultural centres

Women's Works Library: Take a look here for women-centred national and international symposiums, panels, conferences, interviews, panel discussions, open sessions, plays, training seminars, concerts, exhibitions, readings, excursions, film screenings, book signings, poetry readings.

Sinemasal: Right next door to Minik Kalpler. It introduces children to the cinema, organises festivals, and spreads hope. All workers are volunteers. In Balat, for the April 23rd celebrations, a free festival is organised for children from all over, but especially children from the neighbourhood.

Streets and avenues

Hızır Çavuş Köprübaşı Street: We don't think anyone would find it strange to call it Auctioneers Street. Agora Antique, Asanlı Auction, Cen Antique, Ceres Antique are here. Don't miss the auctions organised on the weekends.

Vodina Avenue: Almost all the photos that appear on Google and Instagram when you search ‘Balat’ are taken on this street. Full of shops, it is one of the busiest streets. It is impossible to pass through Balat without walking there. 

Kiremit Avenue: The street that separates Fener and Balat. You can see new houses emulating the old, colourful Greek houses with bay windows and examples of good restoration.

Click here to reach the map from Google Maps.

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Sinemasal that grows up with children

We came together with the founder of Sinemasal, Enes (Kaya) in Balat and we talked about his enterprise and the children’s festival which has been taking place in the hood for the past 6 years.

Sinemasal, (a Turkish word combination of cinema and tale, ‘Cinetale’), founded by Enes (Kaya), is a festival created for children and is both a social initiative and a school. This week we spent some time in Balat’s Vodina Street and talked about what we can do for children. 

Sinemasal shouldering its own responsibility

Sinemasal is a social initiative where children, whether from villages or cities, who don’t know the different alternatives about life get the opportunity to interactively engage in extracurricular activities and meet up with youngsters who could inspire them and become their role models. Within this framework, we organise creative events for geographically, economically, and culturally disadvantaged children from different parts of Turkey.

We locate cinema as a tool in Sinemasal. We organise events where there is no single hero or heroine and where children can learn about such ways to dream for the future by working and moving away from learned helplessness together. Of course, we take such decisions with a board of directors and over 8 thousand volunteers from 34 countries. 

I was also born in a village and I was unaware of everything within that routine.  At that time, cinema became my best friend while I was struggling with life. I shared my sorrows, joys, and concerns with the screen. I have learnt from Casablanca, which I watched at a young age, that finding solutions to life makes everything easier. So, I wanted everyone around me to experience the change I have experienced, thanks to cinema. 

With this in mind, I observed that while festivals were taking place, there were many people in need of art in Balat. And I decided to shoulder my own responsibility. Our awareness was too low considering we are only 2 or 3 kilometres away from the area which we can call ‘the heart of art’ in Istanbul. In terms of awareness, we shouldn’t be this far from places such as Istanbul Modern, Salt, and İKSV while we are physically too close to them. We decided to organise a festival in the hood for all the children in Turkey, especially those in Balat. For 6 years we have been coming together with over 5 thousand children and their families in Balat, on April 23. There are children who have grown up with this festival. It is very special to witness the shift in their perspectives and the light in their minds. When they talk to us, we realise that ‘How?’ has become a daily question for them. When we see one of them questioning life in this way proves to us that we do the right thing in the right place.

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The other colours of Balat

This week we wandered around Balat among the colourful bay windows, clotheslines hanging between them, and the voices of children. We are grabbing a crispy simit from the bakery and going to the ceramic workshop to unwind after the busy day.

Today's sponsor

Koç Holding welcomes art enthusiasts to the 17th Istanbul Biennial

Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) since 1987 and sponsored by Koç Holding since 2007, the 17th edition of the Istanbul Biennial continues.

The Biennial, which will be open to public visit until 20 November, is prepared with a different approach in this edition due to the pandemic precautions as well as its one-year delay.

The 17th Istanbul Biennial meets its viewers in various spots of the city such as bookstores, hospitals, nursing homes, cafes, metro stations, and Açık Radyo. 

An avid supporter of culture and arts, Koç Holding is happy to sponsor the Istanbul Biennial by 2036. To find the short film focusing on the healing and transformative qualities of art, you may visit this link. 

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A weekly journal of neighbourhoods to dig into urban culture, people stories, and sociocultural dynamics. In every issue, we meet an inhabitant in their hood where they live, create or belong.