Nadia Arditti, an Istanbul-born Jewish woman, is one of Turkey’s most prominent sculptors. Her sculptures of soft-curved women, the reflection of forceful emotional journeys, and birds, her symbol of freedom, have become a true hallmark in Turkish sculpture. Her work has been exhibited across the world, including pieces on permanent display in the United States and Britain. Arditti’s life has been shaped by a migration that was politically driven, a serious illness, her rejection of consumerism, the perception of women and faith in solidarity.
Several years ago, Arditti settled in the Aegean village of Kozlu, seeking peace in the same region where her family’s century-long story of migration began. Her mother, born on the Aegean island of Crete, moved to Turkey in 1913 after the island became a territory of Greece. She married an Italian Jew in Istanbul, where she gave birth to Nadia in 1948. The pogrom on Sept. 6-7, 1955, against non-Muslims in Istanbul forced the family to leave Turkey and settle in Switzerland. Nadia was only seven. She would return home in 1979 when she got married. But her mother, who died two years ago at age 104, never came back.
Turkey has a special place for Arditti, who, in her youth, took drawing lessons and volunteered at cultural and artistic associations. “In the first years after I came back, I would stroll the streets of Istanbul together with a painter friend of mine, [especially around] Sultanahmet and Hagia Sophia. We would sit on the pavement and draw. Kids would bring us tea from nearby homes,” she recalls. “Turkey inspired me more than Switzerland because history is all over the place here. The political sentiment in the streets is also inspiring.”
It was in those years that Arditti became interested in sculpture, which marked a turning point in her life. Her passion for sculpting grew, pushing drawing on the back burner. She felt that sculpture, with its four-dimensional form, offered more freedom than drawing within the confines of a frame.