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The Grand Bazaar Magazine - Kapalıçarşı

Kapalıçarşı is a gift of God

Osman Şenel, also known in Kapalıçarşı as Şişko (Fatso) Osman, is one of the best carpet experts of Turkey and the world. Although he recently turned over his business to his close relatives, he says this business cannot be left behind. We talked about the Kapalıçarşı with Şişko Osman and his pupils.

This is Kapalıçarşı. It hides unbelievable values among its streets. Maybe everything in it has a price, but what is the price can be put on the accumulated knowledge of the people who have been laboring here? We cannot do anything more than acknowledge this accumulation respectfully and listen to the trader's lives as told by themselves and their close acquintances. What we hear justifies once more our thought that the market is a sea of labor.

When talking about carpets, the first name that comes to mind is Şişko Osman. The thirty years he has spent trading in hand-woven carpets has made his name the most esteemed of this trade. Although Şişko Osman turned over his trade to his close relatives, trained by him, his pupils always welcome him on the job.

In Şişko Osman's shop we traced a river of knowledge flowing from master to apprentice. We listened to him tell his story. Those around him also talked about him and what they learned from him.

'I have been working at carpet trading for thirty years. This trade was handed down to me from my family. My father's grandfather or his great grandfather worked at carpet trading. My father was a trader, he produced prayer beads. I traveled a lot both throughout Turkey and abroad. I studied Arabic language and literature at the University of Kahire and political science in Sorbonne. I started carpet trading when I was more than 40 years old. There is no retirement from this trade, although health problems prevent me from working as hard as I did before. In fact, there is no retirement in our religion as well. I feel myself lucky that I have been working in the Kapalıçarşı. I feel that to work here can only fall to the those who are born on the night of the beginning of the delivery of Quran. This is a grace of God.'

In every word what his son, Nurullah Şenel, and his nephew Bilgin Aksoy, tell there is nothing but Şişko Osman. At first his son began to tell of the old days of the market that he witnessed.

'In the old days there was order in the market. Every trader had a certain place. For instance, there were only carpet sellers in Halıcılar Caddesi. Those who wanted to buy a good carpet bought it there. It was so until the end of the 1960's. Local people did their shopping here. Jewellers, silver sellers, carpet sellers, dowry sellers. All of them had a certain place. But now incongruent shops are opened in incongruent places'

'Relations between sellers and buyers were different in former times. No one knew what a check or voucher was. This was so until fifteen years ago. People relied on each other. From the beginning of the 1990's, relations between buyers and sellers has come taken on a different dimension as a result of the change of the traders' profile. Negative progress was experienced. Everbody knew each other at those times. There was no need to conceal anything from anybody.'

'Everything changed because of the newcomers. When the old traders left, if they had no son or a nephew to hand down their business, their places were filled by newly-rich people who did not know the trade. Those are people who do not know the ethic of the market and suppose that business here could be done as it is done elsewhere. Their only purpose is high profit. The concept of a trader of quality must be constituted. Of course profit is necessary but it must be within some limits.'

We asked, "Well, what does keep you out of this wheel?" and the address shown us was the same. Their father.

When I was a student, my father told me these words: "Do this business if you love it. If you do not, you cannot do it. Never begin it." Our business is difficult. It makes you think a little as well as it makes you itch a little but it makes you earn your life well. We began to work here as soon as we were graduated from school. The Kapalıçarşı and this shop are like a sea. That is to say, you are lucy if you take a glass of water from this sea and put it by every day. Man learns a new thing everyday. Of course, all the things I told you were based on the knowledge that I got from my father. Especially during my first years at work, my father took us in front of him and told us the things he knew for two hours."

Şişko Osman is Bilgin Aksoy's maternal uncle. Their education in their profession determined their viewpoints about carpets. Bilgin Aksoy tells that their business goes hand in hand with art.

'This business cannot be done without love. Because the carpets and kilims we sell are works of art. They are the hand and eye labors of young Anatolian girls who sit in front of looms. For us, these carpets are as worthy as Picasso's work. An apprentice learns what the master teaches. Mr. Osman spent long years in this business and has a very deep accumulation of knowledge. He taught us everything we know. He shared with us all of his accumulated knowledge.'

How was this knowledge accumulated? During our conversation we looked for the answer: Discipline. When he united the love of carpets that comes from his genes with education and inner disciplines this accumulation came forward. According to his son and nephew, Osman Şenel read and traveled round-the-clock. Not to try recognizing the carpets that came in front of him, but to go to see them personally made him happy. The oldest family member, that is to say his father's grandfather worked at the carpet trade although his father was a producer of prayer beads. These genetic featuers were also handed down to the son and nephew.

While he was talking of their master Şişko Osman, who taught them this business, he gave an example that explain everything.

'A rich French buyer came. He had a three story house in France. He gave one of the stories to his son. He wanted to buy a carpet for him. The man talked my father while we were spreading the goods. My father stopped the service for a moment. He began to talk about something with the Frenchman. The Frenchman had had coffe and tea. He stood up some time later and went out thanking us. We did not understand what happened. Then my father explained. The Frenchman had wanted a kilim to spread under a billards table in the flat that he had given to his son. When my father learned this, he asked the Frenchman if he could put a work of Picasso's under this table. The man had answered "No." At that time my father had said to him, "That's why I won't sell this kilim to you. Excuse me."

'We sell value to the people. We want to sell to those who are aware of this fact.'

It can not be expected that a person like Şişko Osman, who fell in love with carpets and shared his love with others, did not set aside a few drops of this ocean for himself. According to the words of his nephew, when he found pieces to sell he did not neglect to set some apart for himself.

'Mr.Osman has his own collection. There are some pieces there that are not sold in this shop, but are kept with the aim of exhibiting to those who love this business. That is to say we assign the rarest pieces for ourselves. This collection that I mentioned is one of the best collections in the world. In fact he is a Turkish handcrafts expert who is respected in the international platform.'

Carpet love spread to Nurullah Şenel and became an energizer for him to go and see the beautiful Anatolian carpets rarely found in the world, in their own places. He says each trip to Anatolia is an unique pleasure.

Yet the new carpets are more ordinary than the old ones. For this reason it is necessary to take trips and investigate more and more. Nurullah Şenel tells his observation on this matter.

'But the view is completely opposite today. Nothing is original anymore. Newly produced carpets are never the same. Nowadays almost everything is produced in plants. In spite of the very beautiful quality of productions of today, it is extremly difficult to find the carpets we seek. These changes hurt people like us who consider the thing they sell as a fine work of art. But we keep going back and back to Anatolia and never give up.'

It is impossible not be impressed with the lives that have been devoted to find the most beautiful pattern and the most beautiful color. Nurullah Şenel showed us the spring of this river when our conversation in which we tried to find the foundation of this passion handed down from father to son and from maternal uncle to nephew, was about to conclude.

'My father continuously says that our business means everything to us. For this reason his advice to us is to do it with love without failing. He wants us to read and to investigate continuously. He tells us, "Never say I get there but always want more" He tells that we shouldn't say that we've learned everything in this business. Because according to him, this business has no end. My father always says that we have to be thankful for selling the things produced from a holy animal with eye and hand labor in a beautiful place like that.'

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