The definition of being Turkish in Berlin is changing. A new wave of cosmopolitan immigrants from Turkey’s larger cities and the second generation of German-Turks are altering the existing perception of Turkishness in Germany. These young Turks, whether they have just arrived or were born and raised in Berlin, are introducing the cooler, more modern and creative side of their culture, defying stereotypes and finding their own identity and place in the European realm. Four German-Turkish female entrepreneurs in particular have built their businesses from scratch and have also come together for ISCHTA, a joint project that explores their multicultural lives through food.
Founded by the sisters Ezgi and Eda Polat in 2019, ISCHTA is an homage to their colorful hometown of Berlin, celebrating its multicultural culinary scene through food and photography. When cake designer Dilek Topkara discovered the blog in early 2020, she quickly joined them in a mutual exploration and reinterpretation of recipes passed down from generations, but also many created anew. Over time the blog took on more collaborators including the floral arrangements of botanic artist Hürriyet Bulan and the vintage kilims of entrepreneur Beyza Özler. A visual feast of seasonal ingredients, Turkish and Mediterranean influences and still life moments with nature’s most bountiful forms and colors, the blog has also taken a step into the real world with its first ever event. A Turkish breakfast at Topkara’s cafe and atelier Dilekerei with homemade dishes were served in a space decorated entirely with Özler’s vintage kilims and kilim pillows, allowing Berliners to see the young and creative soul of ISCHTA up close.
“ISCHTA has become far more to all of us than a blog where we simply share pictures and art work, it has grown into a dynamic project which embodies our desires for exploration, expression and representation,” says Dilek. “Pictures and videos are an essential way of communicating and finding our own visual language. By hosting our Mediterranean event recently, we stepped out of the virtual world by inviting Berliners to join us in real life at our signature sofra table for a breakfast gathering. We plan to hold more of these types of events, to move closer to our audience.”
The Women Behind ISCHTA
Ezgi Polat’s love affair with photography began at the age of seven when she discovered her mother’s camera. Soon after, she became the official photographer for every family gathering and event, shooting analogue photos that would pave the way for her later career. After studying photography at the Neue Schule für Fotografie, she became a freelance photographer despite the well-known challenges of the profession. Nowadays, she has more than 400,000 Instagram followers and regularly does shoots for tour operators, restaurants and liquor brands. When she’s not jet-setting around the globe for her international clients, Ezgi focuses on the more artistic projects in her portfolio including mesmerizing portrait photography and stills that exude the ethereal in their beauty.
It’s a good thing that Dilek Topkara moved away from the scientific side of good baking and opened her own shop in Berlin so that the masses could indulge in her edible craft. After studying food science and technology in Berlin and working at leading pastry shops in New York and London, Dilek returned to the German capital to start her own business. With the help of her family and friends and financed entirely through every cake sold, her cafe and atelier Dilekerei opened its doors and grew organically. A cake designer extraordinaire who develops all her own recipes, Dilek also does everything herself by hand, including the minute details of her designs, often inspired by her Turkish heritage. Dilek’s wedding cakes are especially true works of art and only appreciated by those who know the value of great craftsmanship.
When Beyza Özler moved to Kaş in 2012 with her six month old daughter, she ventured into a shop and set her eyes on kilims for the first time. It was love at first sight. The perfect union of her Turkish heritage and her lifelong passion for textiles, she ended up taking a few kilims back to Berlin where they were met with ardent interest. So much interest in fact, that she ended up opening her own shop. Beyza and her team in Istanbul scour Turkey for vintage kilims, which are then washed and intricately restored before they end up at Wild Heart Free Soul, her store in Prenzlauer Berg. Hand woven from hand spun, naturally dyed sheep’s wool, Beyza’s kilims are all one-of-a-kind and come in an endless spectrum of mystic symbols and bold colors. Dedicated to sustainability and fair trade, the kilims undergo a long process before they end up in Berlin, including an around three-month stay in a ‘kilim field’ where the sun acts as a natural disinfectant and stain remover.
When a floral shop owner asked her to work with him, it took a few months for Hürriyet Bulan to accept. It must have been fate. Almost twenty years later flowers have become the center of her life. A floral and event designer and self-taught floral photographer, Hürriyet was a novelty when she first started her business in Berlin since a floral studio, rather than a shop, was a rarity in the city. The designer’s lush blooms have graced many weddings but also events such as Berlin Fashion Week where her botanic art take on the form of unique installations. For her photography, Hürriyet’s flowers act as models whose delicate details are striking against a black background, a kind of visual journey into the spectacular forms of nature. Yet whatever she does, Bulan is a people person, believing the power of flowers lie in their ability to connect humans and spread positivity.