As the 56th anniversary of the recruitment treaty between Germany and Turkey allowing Turkish guest workers to work in Germany approaches, the story about the gifts brought by those workers from Germany to their loved ones were collected into a book chapter titled, “Göçün Getirdikleri: Göçmen Hediyeleri (The Outcomes of Migration: Immigrant Gifts)”. A Recruitment Treaty signed by the two states on October 30, 1961 established the conditions for 2 thousand 500 guest workers. Moreover, the stories behind “small gifts” brought by those workers to their loved ones, friends, relatives, were collected into a book titled, “Sıla Yolu” (The Road to Homeland).
Asst. Prof. Dr. Gökhan Mura, Vice Dean, IUE Faculty of Fine Arts and Design, and Lecturer at IUE Department of Visual Communication Design, reported that his study on stories about gifts from Germany offered a different point of view on the economic and cultural relations between the two countries. He stated that there were almost 3 million Turkish immigrants (reaching third generation) in Germany today, and buying a small gift was a reflection of a tradition. Asst. Prof. Dr. Mura said, “When I was a child, gifts such as soaps, lotions, chocolates, etc. brought from abroad were very meaningful, valuable then. Those gifts were not available in Turkey so you would not use them for a certain time since you did not know when second of those would arrive. That made those gifts extra special for us. This semantic change, the value objects gained beyond their use value, has prolonged the life of an object that was meant to be used and finished. It also helped the product to be consumed at a slower pace. So many of the gifts were displayed at china cabinets. Sometimes the chocolates got spoiled because they were not consumed on time. I wanted to research these gifts because they provide a new perspective on economic and cultural relations”.
‘Meaning of immigrant gifts’
Asst. Prof. Dr. Mura stated that the gifts shed light on the cultural relation and interaction between the two countries, and he conducted his research on the relation of immigrants with objects in various countries. He said that the immigrants contributed to the material culture of the country with their gifts, and provided a different narrative to the Germany story being told in Turkey. Asst. Prof. Dr. Mura stated the following:
“Even though the gifts brought from Germany were based on the feeling of buying something for the loved ones, some of the gifts make a reference to the hardship the immigrants went through during the first years of the migration. We were being told a much different story in Turkey. Immigrants visiting Turkey on their annual leave became flamboyant characters because of the way they dressed up and the gifts they brought. Those products, shaped by the industry and policies of other countries, turned into industrial exotic objects that are expensive and hard to find in Turkey. Therefore, small gifts such as shampoos, soaps, chocolates, toys, etc. went through a semantic change when they crossed the border and made it to Turkey. Finally, that all changed when they also became available in Turkey. Those industrial exotic objects, which we’ve valued so much back then, turned into consumption objects that are easily reachable in Turkey, and they lost their meaning and the pleasure they gave.”