Published simultaneously at Shareable.net.
I attended a unique event in Istanbul, Turkey from October 11-14, 2013, called “Giftival,” a neologism combining gift and festival.
The event brought together people who are focusing on gift economy and gift culture as part of their core work in the world, arriving from an abundance and security perspective. Attendees came from far and wide: seven or eight from India, a half dozen from the U.S., various individuals from Nigeria, Brazil, Iran, Palestine, Jordan, Mexico, England, Canada, Czech Republic, Holland, France, a Swiss-German family living on a commune in Portugal, an Australian living at Findhorn in Scotland, and another 8-10 from various parts of Turkey. Pretty evenly divided between men and women, and we spanned the ages with two children ages 1 and 2 to a few older than 65. It was a very interesting bunch! Folks from a local timebank called Zumbara were instrumental in calling for and hosting Giftival, and their hospitality and generosity will be remembered by all of us. We were housed in nearby hostels and hotels, and fed delicious homemade meals for lunch and dinner every day.There were about 35 attendees at any given moment, though we had an open session on the Sunday afternoon when another 40-50 locals came in and joined us in a series of breakouts and then group discussion, followed by a potluck dinner.
Our meeting place was in an old 19th century building on the main pedestrian boulevard called Istiklal, so we were four floors above the constant hum of thousands of passing pedestrians and a funny repetitive accordion riff that appeared regularly during the afternoons, providing an extra soundtrack for our thoughts and discussions. Going there in the mornings we had to weave between dozens of delivery and garbage trucks, the air choking with their exhaust, but by the time we’d leave during the afternoon or in the evening, the street was back to being a throbbing public promenade. Side streets and alleys too are full of people on foot, and all the restaurants and bars are crowded with people of all types, making this part of Istanbul a super magnetic urban space. After we closed down on Monday evening, we were treated to a boat ride from the Golden Horn out into the Bosphorus, northward towards the Black Sea, and then back to the Istanbul shore, coursing the dark waters between Europe and Asia under starlit skies on a cool but pleasant evening. For us visitors, the environment was enchanting.
For the locals who called us together, the intensity of the recent events around Gezi Park was still quite fresh, and their compelling descriptions during our first morning together quickly penetrated any jet lag or uncertain distance we may have held. To hear about tens of thousands bringing food in a 15-minute period to a kilometers-long “table” spread down the middle of Istiklal (where major multinational brand stores and boutiques predominate) touched us all and produced a palpable excitement, even several months later. Combined with the other stories of amazing events, unexpected serendipities, spontaneous solidarities, and more, we could feel in the room the “eros effect” that had been so present during those summer days, and was still lending its long tailing residue to our gathering in a surprising but delightful way. At one point during the protests the government told mothers to go and get their children from Gezi to save them from attack, and instead the mothers by the thousands converged on Gezi with food and confronted the police themselves…. some of our friends here said they never ate better than during those heady days. In fact, they even talked about falling in love with everyone in the streets. More »