Speaking on Turkey

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

After moving to Turkey in 2001, carver Jno Didrickson, originally from Juneau, found that Native American carving is popular there.

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Courtesy Of Jno Didrickson
Courtesy Of Jno Didrickson

"There is a great interest in all things Native American," Didrickson said of Turkey. "We were covered by the media (TV, radio, newspaper, etc.). Much of the effort spent for the exhibition in April was spent educating people not only of geography (Southeast Alaska is not Canada; yes it is still part of America) but also educating others about general Native culture."

Although he enjoys educating the Turkish about Native culture, Didrickson also longs for cedar wood, which is not available in Turkey.

"I really miss the smell of red and yellow cedar when carving," he said.

A Tlingit of his mother's clan, the Luk'naxadi (Raven-Coho), Didrickson's father is of the Deisheetan (Raven-Beaver) clan. He started carving when his aunt gave him his first pocket knife, at 9 years old.

"I am self-taught but spent a lot of time around Totem Park in Sitka watching others work, including my aunt Chris Judy," Didrickson said. "I also watched others carve here in Juneau and would often ask for the scraps."

Didrickson said he enjoys carving new creations.

"It's a joy to see the image in my head become real," he said. "(I most enjoy making) anything with a story or myth behind it. Half the fun of making a piece is explaining the story behind it and not just explaining the figures."

Didrickson said he was in town for Celebration 2008 but could not participate, as he spent much of the time taking photos so he could explain some of the culture when he returns home to Turkey.

"I had also focused on making some new connections so that I could do some further education on the Native art," Didrickson said.

According to Didrickson, Turkish knowledge on Tlingit culture is scarce.

"Although everyone in Turkey knows and admires totems, no one knows anything about Tlingits," he said. "Although totem poles are known worldwide, the term 'Pacific Northwest Coast art' and 'Tlingit' is not familiar. ... My people are also called 'Totem people.'"

Didrickson said the Turkish people found the pricing of such carvings expensive, due to the lack of knowledge and the overproduction of touristic objects there.

But given the warm response he received, Didrickson and his family expresses thanks to Sunay Akin, a well-known Turkish poet and author.

"He believed in my artwork even when there was not much carvings and his encouragement helped push the exhibition through," Didrickson said of Akin. "He also supported us by inviting us to his cultural television program. We are also grateful to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate, who have given their support. Finally, we would like to thank Teksin Art Gallery for their courage in taking the risk to host such a exhibition.

"I thank all these people who made the Tlingit culture and art, which I am proud to be a part of, known and appreciated miles away from home," Didrickson added.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or neighbors@juneauempire.com.

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