Homotopia and The Pansy Project go to Istanbul

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A gay arts festival and a project to remember victims of anti-gay hate crime visited Istanbul last week.

The Turkish city is the 2010 European Capital of Culture and Liverpool-based arts festival Homotopia and The Pansy Project planted hundreds of pansies at the British Consulate.

The week-long visit also included presentations and workshops with diplomats, local artists and local gay activists. It is hoped that a Homotopia festival can be held in Turkey in future.

The Pansy Project was created by artist Paul Harfleet. It is described as part memorial and part art installation and a gesture of “quiet resistance”.

After a homophobic attack, he finds the closest spot of soil to where the incident occurs and plants one unmarked pansy. The flower is then photographed and given a caption, which often relates to the homophobic abuse shouted at the victim.

Consul-General to Istanbul Jessica Hand, who helped plant pansies at the Consulate, said: “At a first glance, all are pansies but each pansy is different from the other. This is how it is in the society we live in; though we all look alike, we are different from each other.”

She added: “I fully support this project. Protecting the rights of minority groups, wherever they may be, is a shared responsibility for all. Prejudice and discrimination are destructive to societies and individuals – tolerance may be more challenging, but it is ultimately more rewarding.”

Homotopia artistic director Gary Everett said: “In a country like Turkey, where prominent politicians find it acceptable to call homosexuality an offence and immoral on the TV and radio, and where many LGBT people still don’t feel able to come out or be accepted, this project is an important and a timely reminder of why such work is vital.”

Paul Harfleet added: “The Pansy installation commemorates all victims of transphobic and homophobic violence both in Turkey and around the world and symbolises our resistance and solidarity in protecting these values.”