Footsteps is a learning process, an attempt to collect stories from the margins of wars. Drafted by Çiğdem Öztürk, a journalist focusing on human rights, the women’s movement and struggle against discrimination, the project is realised in collaboration with photographer and media-artist Omar Barakdar from arthereistanbul, an art space founded by Syrian artists living in Istanbul to provide others like them with support, visibility and a place to work.

A library established at arthereistanbul, comprising approximately 600 books in Turkish and Arabic, dealing with the stories and experiences of war – mostly overshadowed by more significant events and traumas – serves as the central hub for the project. The library generates pathways for conversation, both mediated and face-to-face, including online gatherings and reading groups, music, a podcast series that involves reflecting on war through uncommon channels, and the dialogical ‘Telephone Call From arthereistanbul’, a series of short phone conversations catching up with artists who have passed through arthereistanbul and now live in other parts of the world.

Omar Berakdar (b. 1964, Damascus, Syria) is a photographer, media artist and the founder of arthereistanbul, an art space founded by Syrian artists living in Istanbul to provide others like them with support, visibility and a place to work. He is a founding member of the Syrian Cultural House in Turkey and of Fanak Fund, a Paris-based foundation that supports displaced artists, as well as a member of the Res Artis, a network for international artist residencies. He has initiated numerous residency programmes for artists, such as Fanak Fund’s support grants for displaced artists, awarded every year since 2016; BeMobileCreateTogether in collaboration with İKSV in 2019; and the ACT Exchange Residency Program supported by the British Council in 2022. He was a participant in Displaced in Media between 2016 and 2017, a project supported by the European Culture Foundation, as well as the project Reloading Images and Publication and its publication Damascus: Tourists, Artists, Secret Agents. A collector of photographic heritage, he gave a lecture about photographic archiving and contemporary art practices in SALT Galata in 2014, and has since then been involved in the preservation of photographic heritage within the MEPPI (Middle East Photographic Preservation initiative) project. Following his arrival in Turkey in 2012, Berakdar curated, co-curated and took part in various artistic projects and festivals such as Unauthorised, Depo, Istanbul, Turkey (2016); DOCUMENTARIST 7th Istanbul Documentary Days, Istanbul, Turkey (2016) and Contemporary Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey (2016–17).

Çiğdem Öztürk (b. 1978, Istanbul, Turkey) is a freelance journalist, editor and translator focusing on human rights, women’s rights, anti-discrimination policies, arts and music. She studied political science, and during her professional life has worked for several magazines, newspapers and radio stations including Pazartesi, Adam Öykü, Adam Sanat, Buğday, Açık Radyo, Radikal, Roll, Express, Bir+Bir as a correspondent and editor. She has worked as a lecturer at the Izmir University of Economics and has contributed to Istanbul and Ayvalık film festivals. For the 17th Istanbul Biennial in 2021, she curated Side by Side Together, an 8th of March celebration dedicated to migrant women’s stories. She has translated books from Spanish and English into Turkish by Alejandro Zambra, Jorge Luis Borges, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Javier Marías amongst others, and is currently working on a documentary film project on solidarity concerts.

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