We were led to believe that the Arab swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark swirling his scimitar to intimidate Indy who solved the problem by shooting him was a ‘whirling dervish’; well maybe not. A visit by the Sufi Music Ensemble and Whirling Dervishes to Canberra was an enthralling experience of this ancient order of semazen of Konya, Tukey with an 800 years old mystic tradition that is mesmerizing and hypnotic and not in the least bit violent or frenetic. The swordsman wore black and red, the dervish wear white to whirl. Jointly sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Turkish Embassy in Canberrra the visit was part of Turkey’s contribution to the commemoration of the Gallipoli Anzac Centenary.
Taking to the stage at Llewellyn Hall, the performance began with the vocal and instrumental Sufi devotional music central to the SEMA ceremony of the whirling dervishes, who followed with their fascinating rituals and whirling.
Wearing the camel’s hair hat that is the tombstone of the ego, the wide white circular skirt that is the ego’s shroud, the pattern of this ritual emerged with open arms held above shoulder height and the right open palm to the sky and left to the earth in the anti clockwise whirling around their heart. ‘The semazen embraces all humanity with love’, they say and as it continued we marveled at their balance as semazen of all ages whirled and whirled. I was giddy they were well and truly in another place.
Continuing the commemorating of the Gallipoli Anzac Centenary there was for the 92nd Anniversary of the Turkish Republic a new Ambassador of Turkey, Vakur Gokdenizler, and a painting exhibition by Hikmet Cetinkaya opened for the occasion and featured on the walls of Lalezar Hall. It is called Don’t Forget the Poppies and was commissioned for this significant year and as the flower of remembrance seeing them mixed with perspectives and imaginings on the Gallipoli Peninsula is impressive.
There was a warm welcome by the new ambassador who has a sense of humour and photo-bombing talent, both endearing talents for a diplomat as his staff plied us with savoury and sweet treats, the refreshments flowed and the guest lingered, which made for a fantastic National Day.
And the truth at last about Indy and the swordsman.