Photos and text by Marianna Francese & Jaad Gaillet. "This joint project is part of the desire to represent the interior of a district of Istanbul, Tarlabaşı. This area is facing a process of urban renewal, the houses are emptied and destroyed in favor of the construction of hotels, offices and residences.
Tarlabaşı is a historical district that dates the 16th century and is the area where a very heterogeneous population is concentrated. Migrants from the east, Kurdish, Gypsies, Africans, Turks, Armenians and Greeks who live together and share their wealth and their poverty."
"The first homes in the area date back to the 1530's when the non-Muslim diplomats began to settle in the Ottoman imperial city. But it was not until the 1870's that Tarlabaşı became the place where the lower middle class of non-Muslims lived: Greek craftsmen, Armenians and Jews, shopkeepers, employees serving businessmen and diplomats around the 'Istiklal Caddesi' today the main boulevard for the shopping. Today, very few of the original non-Muslim residents remain in the area. In the early 1950's, waves of rural-urban migration from Anatolia led to profound demographic and socioeconomic changes in Istanbul. After the military coup of the 1980's with the consequent migration of Kurdish and the subsequent implementation of neo-liberal policies in Turkey, radical urban restructuring in Istanbul leaves its mark on Tarlabaşı. As in other major cities, the heart of Istanbul is destined to become the place for the exclusive upper classes, trade and business, and a paradise for tourists. Social diversity and cultural heritage, which are still the charm of this district, are doomed.
Located a few minutes from the famous Taksim Square and Gezi Park, it was in the labyrinthine streets of Tarlabaşı that the protesters refuged from the police during the last months of protests. Yet urban planning in Tarlabaşı has not generated the same enthusiasm of the people to defend this place, perhaps simply because many do not like this neighborhood because is dirty, dangerous... But the choice to defend Gezi Park - it is environmentally friendly, it is mostly symbolic face to the urban renewal campaign that hits Istanbul.
If Tarlabaşı is still a popular area with all its stereotypes, it creates a new situation that is more and more paradoxical. The tourist attraction it offers, including its proximity to Taksim or Istiklal or even the history of the place is of a big interest for those, the streets and people, authentic and proud still continue their activities as if the district will never change and others who determine the new wave of tourism and Tarlabaşı is torn between its complex identity, and the one imposed."