Banu Zeytinoğlu / May Our Conversation Be Abundant

11 December 2023

May Our Conversation Be Abundant!

Once upon a time, in a family from Eskişehir, there was a girl. This girl, from the moment she was born, was lucky enough to consider the greatest masters of art and literature as a natural part of life. Even though her parents' professions were entirely different, their friends were from the world of culture and art. The little girl thought that culture and art were something you were born into, a way of life, but everything else was a matter of choice. She learned to talk from Tahsin Yücel, who talked to her tirelessly for hours during their conversations. During summer vacations, the two families would rent a summer house and spend three months together. The little girl thought that everyone's father's closest friend was a master of literature, who had received the Legion d'Honneur, and who never left his typewriter while listening to his tiny radio and called as “Dad” by everyone. It was Tahsin Yücel.

She went to her first theater play at the age of 5 in 1970, at the Kılıçoğlu Cinema in Eskişehir. On the stage, alongside the scenery, there was a large wreath with her father Mümtaz Zeytinoğlu's name written boldly on it (even though she couldn't read, she had memorized her father's name well enough to recognize it). She thought that the most important requirement for something to be considered theater was that there had to be a wreath with her father's name on the stage! However, her father was quite embarrassed that evening. He had only asked the florist to send a small flower basket backstage, but the florist thought a wreath was more appropriate. Why did her father send flowers? Because the play was "Yaygara 70," written by Erol Günaydın and directed by Haldun Dormen. It turns out her father and Haldun Dormen had founded Cep Tiyatrosu, which later became Dormen Tiyatrosu, and what they called Dormen Tiyatrosu consisted of everyone on the stage. So, the little girl thought that all the actors were called Dormen... and she wasn't entirely wrong. Years later, as she got to know actors who had emerged from Dormen, she realized that her childlike thinking was reasonable. In the play, the little girl got so carried away that, during the final scene, she tried to imitate whatever her mother was doing on stage but couldn't resist shouting at the top of her lungs, "Bravo Uncle Erol!" and throwing herself onto the stage. That night, she had an epiphany. She realized that everyone in the audience knew all the people on the stage, the people who she called her uncle or her aunt. They were FAMOUS. She made a firm decision that night that she would not love famous people! However, she has been reminded every day that it was a big statement. She is grateful to Haldun Dormen, Betül Mardin, Erol Günaydın, Göksel Kortay, Suna Keskin, Erol Keskin, Nevra Serezli, Metin Serezli, Duygu Sağıroğlu, and others who were her father's friends and who have made her life in the most beautiful way possible.

When the little girl was 3 or 4 years old, she was introduced to painting, ceramics, sculpture, and stained glass art. Every time they went to Ankara, they would visit Uncle Cemil (Cemil Eren), one of the most important figures in Turkish art. Paints, glass, canvases, colors... Uncle Cemil's large works were hanging on the walls of their house. When she looked at them, she didn't understand much. Some were paintings of mist, some were depictions of the Antep plain, but she couldn't relate. She couldn't relate, but she enjoyed standing in front of them and just looking. There were also strange objects like ox heads and objects made of mud. The little girl liked Uncle Cemil 's boxes the most; they had lights inside, covered in colorful glass. She enjoyed going from one color to another, from one sparkle to another, from one dark corner to the next light. Today, she knows that she owes the joy she derives from painting, sculpture, ceramics, and stained glass art to Uncle Cemil, and whenever she goes to an art exhibition, she always thinks about Uncle Cemil.

She attended her first classical music concert and musical in London with her mother when she was 6 years old. The musical was "Fiddler on the Roof," and the concert featured Beethoven's "5th Symphony," which is her favorite piece. She got so excited that she couldn't hold back and shouted, "Da-da-da-daa," and everyone, including the orchestra members, laughed at her heartfelt enthusiasm. She had been accustomed to listening to classical music from the moment she was born. On Sundays, her family would sit down together and listen to classical music, like a mandatory lesson. She used to get bored at first, but later on, she realized the tremendous discipline her family had instilled in her to make her a classical music enthusiast. Without her even noticing, her musical ear had been trained with the music she would come to love. Musicians became a part of her life just like classical music did. She met some of them while her father chatted with them, drinking rakı at home, and others she met after concerts, handing them flowers. One thing she never lost was the excitement of attending a classical music concert.

Her family taught her that the relationship with art was not just about listening, watching, or reading, but also about contributing to art and artists as much as one could. Her sister, Zeynep Zeytinoğlu, organized the International Eskişehir Festival for years. It was an art celebration carefully curated with colors from all over the world. Once, the Philharmonia Wien orchestra came to the festival, and her mother invited the entire orchestra to their home for dinner. It might sound funny, but the conductor, Ola Rudner, and many of the orchestra members were their friends. Midway through the meal, the entire orchestra started applauding her mother, Güneş Zeytinoğlu, and in response, her mother gave a short speech: "Throughout my life, I have applauded orchestras hundreds of times. For the first time in my life, an orchestra is applauding me. Thank you for making this happen." Yes, every little contribution you make to art, every applause, turns back to you and ignites that power within your heart.

As you may have guessed, that little girl is me, dear Mey|Diageo family. I am Banu Zeytinoğlu. It's been over a year since I joined the Mey|Diageo family as a culture and art consultant. I wanted to get closer to all of you, and for that reason, I shared the significant impact of my childhood on the responsibility I have taken on with all its purity. I've been waiting for this responsibility for a long time, haven't I?! While writing this, I also realized something beautiful. Every magical touch you give to children makes them stronger in the future. And that magical touch is art itself.

At Mey|Diageo, if we choose to touch the branches of art and walk alongside artists, if we embrace our culture and respect the sense of loyalty, if we look at art not just as "corporate social responsibility" but as a "social institution responsible for art," aiming to set an example for the business world, then allow me to shout this out for all of us:

A "different kind of company" that is inclusive and unifying and that supports art and advocates for the rights of all living beings is possible.

A world that contributes to the sustainability of art is possible.

May our art-filled conversations abound, dear Mey|Diageo family. Let your excitement always remain new until we meet again in my future writings!