17.00 - 19.00 | Exhibition Opening
In the upper foyer of De Balie we present the photo series Kütmaan and Mr. Gay Syria from Istanbul based photographer Bradley Secker. Secker's work often focuses on the consequences of social, political, and military actions, with a primary focus on the individual. He often covers stories on the way personal identity shapes lives in challenging and unexpected ways.
كتمان / Kütmaan
- means hidden or concealed in Arabic.
This is an ongoing series of portraits documenting individuals in Turkey and Syria seeking asylum based on their sexuality or gender identity. The series also follows LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Kurds as they struggle for their rights in the LGBT and Kurdish movements, in south-eastern Turkey.
The work comprises photographs from multiple projects and is a continuation of Iraq's unwanted people, a photo reportage on Iraqi men seeking resettlement on grounds of sexuality in Damascus, Syria in 2010. This ongoing series forms part of a long-term documentary on LGBT identity in the Middle East.
Originating from Iraq, Syria and Iran, hundreds of individuals have applied for resettlement overseas, based on sexuality or gender identity grounds. They are currently in Turkey, Syria and other counties in the region, waiting for their cases to be processed and to be moved to the next country.
Kütmaan attempts to portray the waiting, the uncertainty, and the highs and lows of the resettlement experience in both countries, and the lives that are lived during those unknown months and years. As numerous factors continue to rip their countries and the wider region apart, LGBT refugees manage to find each other and unite in exile, despite their differences.
All the individuals depicted in these images have been displaced due to their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Mr. Gay Syria
2016 marks the first edition of Mr. Gay Syria, a contest to find a candidate to represent the country in the annual Mr. Gay World contest, which aims to advance LGBT rights globally through a chosen candidate.
At the time of the shoot the Syrian conflict was in its fifth year. Those forced to flee Syria have long since formed diaspora communities around the Middle East and further abroad. Istanbul has become one of the main centres of Syrian culture and life in exile, and is also home to a growing community of LGBTI Syrians standing up and asserting their identities and their rights.
Hussein Sabat was the winner of the Mr. Gay Syria contest, held in Istanbul, Turkey. This story follows Hussein and the four other brave competitors in the community, from the competition in Istanbul to Malta for Mr. Gay World 2016.
This isn't just a story on the search for Mr. Gay Syria, it's a story about a movement of individuals forming a community and empowering themselves and each other in exile. This is a story about resilience in the face of fear, and unity amid increasing polarisation and sectarianism.