Thursday, 07 December 2023

Horse Carriage Making and Painting: Konya's Rich Cultural Heritage

Konya is a city rich in history, culture, and traditional handicrafts. As a former center of trade during the Ottoman Empire, Konya has been influenced by various cultures throughout its history. One of the traditional crafts that Konya is known for is the art of making and painting horse-drawn carriages. These carriages have a long history in Konya, dating back to before the Ottoman Empire. They were used in Konya before various types of carriages, such as those used in the palace, for transportation, and for services, were used in Istanbul.

Since the discovery of the wheel, horse-drawn carriages have been an essential mode of transportation. The Hittites introduced chariots in Anatolia around 2000 BCE, and representations of carriage wheels have been found in Central Asian petroglyphs dating back to 1000 BCE. Ox-drawn carts were also used for rural transportation in Anatolia during the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, while horse-drawn carriages were employed in the cities and intercity highways. Istanbul, during the Ottoman era, used various carriages, including a palace and passenger carriages. In the early years of the Republic, Konya had a thriving horse-drawn carriage industry, with 56 masters, 30 journeymen, and 80 apprentices building phaetons and carriages in the city center. The carriage builders were concentrated in Larende Street, Saman Bazaar, and around the Gevraki Inn, constructing different carriages, such as the Konya sprung cart, carriage, phaeton, and firik.

The carriage's body is made of durable wood species, such as hornbeam, pine, and ash, while the wheel, spokes, rim, central pole, shaft end, curved tree (neckyoke), base board, lower wagon, upper wagon, coachman's box seat, and horse-feed compartment are also made of wood. Iron parts such as the front shaft, fifth wheel, roller bolt, axle, cup, çampara (an iron bell installed between the axle and wheel), cover, bolt, and angle iron make up the remaining parts.

In Konya, three types of horse carriages were built: Tatar carriages, which are migrants' carriages with iron wheels pulled by double horses; Antalya carriages, which are sprung carts with tires on their wheels; and Meram sprung carts, whose wagons are seated on a pair of springs. Phaeton carriages, brought to Konya by immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, have a folding top on the passenger seat, while firik is a type of carriage with a folding top.

Painting horse carriages involves using oil painting techniques to decorate parts such as wheels, wagons, and shaft ends. This practice, called "çiçekleme" (painting flowers), is a form of folk painting. Imaginative landscapes are created inside the panels placed on the side faces of the wagons using yellow, red, blue, green, pink, white, and black colors. These landscapes depict mountains, streams, buildings, forests, and ducks swimming in a lake, as well as plants such as roses, tulips, and cypresses, along with geometric forms and figures. Additionally, aphorisms, production workshop names, master names, wish statements, and lyrics were inscribed on carriage wagons.

Although Konya had 59 workshops in 1936, there are only two left in Akşehir today, where the masters repair old carriages or make miniature carriages to decorate gardens.