Artist puts Turkey’s domestic abuse issue in global spotlight

A Turkish artist has hung 440 pairs of black heels on the side of a prominent Istanbul building, highlighting the number of Turkish women killed by their husbands in 2018 and bringing global attention to the issue. 

News outlets in the Middle East, Britain, the United States, China and beyond have reported on Vahit Tuna’s exhibition, which aims to draw attention to the domestic abuse faced by nearly 40 percent of Turkish women, according to the United Nations.  

“He managed to find a way to bring it to the awareness of his fellow countrymen that just couldn’t be ignored and also beautifully commemorate those who fell victim to this terrible violence,” said Judita Kusaitytė of U.S. outlet Bored Panda. 

British newspaper Metro described it as “an art installation no one can ignore.” 

The show is part of Yanköşe, a non-profit art platform run by Turkish coffee chain Kahve Dunyası, according to Turkish outlet Hürriyet Daily News. The heels cover an outer wall of the building hosting the Kahve Dunyası branch in Istanbul’s central Kabataş neighbourhood, on a main traffic artery along the Bosporus Strait, near the popular Dolmabahçe Palace. 

“We wanted everyone passing by the road to see,” Tuna told Turkish media, adding that he had been inspired by the custom, in some parts of Turkey, of placing the shoes of someone who had passed away outside the home. 

“One of the very few public art projects in Turkey, Yanköşe reaches thousands of people every day because of its location in the city,” said Hürriyet Daily News. 

Last month, the killing of Emine Bulut, who was stabbed by her ex-husband in front of their daughter, sparked a public outcry and brought greater attention to the issue of domestic violence. In Turkey, 440 women were killed in 2018 as a result of domestic abuse, up from 409 the year before, according to the watchdog group We Will Stop Femicide.

Tuna’s exhibition, which opened earlier this month, is to remain on view until March.