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Life as a Refugee by Gültekin Bilge (Cyprus)

Updated: May 6, 2018

When I painted this artwork I was remembering the fear and misery of my family’s experience when we were made refugees during the Cyprus War in 1974. We lost our land, our home, all of our livestock, and personal possessions. Many times we thought we might lose our lives.

My right hand was shattered by a dumdum bullet, and as a young artist recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Art, I felt I had lost my future. This was the experience of my Community and I tried to convey the unhappiness that still lingers and their continued experience of isolation from the rest of the world because of embargoes.

Life as a Refugee by Gültekin Bilge

The image depicts refugees in a sea of confusion and uncertainty, alone and powerless, with only themselves to rely on. The large green faces in the top corner represent political power brokers at work behind the scenes, negotiating moves and counter moves, but doing nothing to improve the plight of the refugees.

Other hidden faces watch and wait to see what happens before they will do anything to help.

Refugees become “stuck”in the situation with no hope for a secure future and with very few choices or chances to improve their lives.

Turkish Cypriot Artist, born in 1945. Graduated in 1972 with M.A. from the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts. I was unable to paint for many years after being shot in the right in the 1974 Cyprus War. During the period of recovery I worked as an art teacher whilst researching world art history and developments in contemporary art.

Gültekin Bilge

My aim was to create a personal language of expression by developing a unique style that could be recognised as having a Turkish root. Early influences were Bosch, Rembrandt, Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, and Chagall, but currently I work directly from nature. The injury to my hand led to a dark period in my life, full of anger, pain, frustration, increased sense of isolation, personal and political powerlessness, and loss of identity.

Art is like therapy and I discover, express and release these emotions in my abstract artworks. Like a miner I find myself “digging deep” into my intuition, emotions and personal experience to express my thoughts and feelings about the impact of world events and different ideologies on people’s lives.

Prior to 2011, I lived in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and did not exhibit internationally because of embargoes on trade and cultural exchange. Since moving to the UK in November 2011 I have exhibited internationally throughout Europe, USA, Australia and Japan.

There are many things to say about injustice and inhumanity in this world. I spend my time exploring the human condition and I comment on what I see using the mediumof paint. I mix my thoughts and feelings into my paints to express my emotions about the world we inhabit and the relationships we develop on a personal, social and political level.

Constant themes I explore are ongoing human struggles about identity, dominance, ideological brainwashing, power and powerlessness, betrayal and double-dealing.

World Citizen Artists is a platform to give voice to issues that are not heard and to help raise awareness and encourage people to wake up and listen.

I am only an artist, but art can be a means to open minds and release emotional imprisonment.

I think it is important to work collaboratively with others who have complimentary skills and creative ideas about how to engage people in actively getting involved in raising awareness and taking action to address issues that don’t have a direct impact on their own lives, but that cause misery and suffering to many other people.


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