'Reinvention of the Tradition': The Wall Paintings of a Village-Mosque in Blurred Margins


MILLI FOLKLOR, vol.2020, no.126, pp.118-135, 2020 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 2020 Issue: 126
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Sociological abstracts, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.118-135
  • Keywords: Bayat Village-Mosque, folk art, wall painting, popular culture, Denizli
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


This article focuses on the wall paintings of a small mosque found in Bayat village of Denizli province. A group of traveling artist has painted the Bayat mosque in the years of 1950's. Similar examples found in Western and Central Anatolia indicate that the same artist groups wandered in the same years and decorated many village mosques using similar stencils. The astonishingly rich and cheerful repertoire of the mural decorations converted these modest mosques with earth-plastered walls into a "folk art gallery". Decorating village-mosques with murals is not a novel convention pertaining to interiors our examples. These walls are decorated with new interpretations of an ancient tradition whose traces have been followed since the 15th century and became wide spread in the 18th and 19th centuries. The mosques mentioned in this essay are not unknown examples in the field. They have been introduced in articles or mentioned in general studies. However, the purpose of this article is to understand this decorative program of the 1950s through the civril Bayat Village Mosque, one of the richest examples of this group. This study will address to some certain questions: Are these painted decorations seen on the walls of village-mosques were "simple" repetitions of old models? Or, is it a "reinvention" of an ancient tradition if we borrow the words of Eric Hobsbawm, the famous historian? Is it a coincidence that this deep-rooted tradition is back in the mid-20th century? Or an established tradition is rein-terpreted in the new historical context of Turkey? In fact, the works discussed here were executed during the Democratic Party period in which the villages that hosted these mosques experienced a great economic and social change. The probable answers to these questions that will constitute the main axis of the article will not only place these mosques in a historical context; they will also help to understand a certain cultural-artistic production, which is epithelized as "folk" art or "popular culture. The decorations in these mosques, which were renovated in the 1950s, are not just simple repetitions of the past. The iconography that we encounter in the mosques has been taken from the past, lost many qualities, and has been "invented" again in a new historical context. These images from 1950's, bear the traces of a blurred past, yet they have been turned into decorative motifs in the hands of the craftsmen using prefabricated stencils. These re-invented motifs decorated different spaces ranging from mosques to coffeehouses, from lodges to houses, and blurred the boundaries between these spaces. At the end, in Anatolian villages the mosque was not a distant place with strict rules, but a joyful living space.