Living in the Kirazlıyaka neighborhood of Karaman's Başyayla district, Mehmet Ali Gündüz has been a shepherd since he was a small child. A father of three, Gündüz has enjoyed observing historical artifacts in the area from the Roman and Byzantine periods since his childhood.
He started to work on little gems and stones inspired by those artifacts. With time he improved his skill, and now his sculptures mesmerize spectators.
He told Anadolu Agency that he was a primary school graduate and did not receive any education on sculpting.
"When I was a child, I used to get curious about those sculptures and how they were shaped. Then I started to work on stones in my pocket while shepherding. I started to read books with historical artifacts in them and improved myself," he said.
'People take them abroad'
He explained that he developed some of the materials he used while sculpting on his own.
"The stone I work on is a special one. It is found only at a stone pit in the area. It is easy to give shape to straight from the pit. It gets harder upon having contact with the air. Also, there has to be no streaks on the stone. The more perfect the stone is, the more beautiful the result will be. I can do whatever is requested - human or animal figures. Sometimes people order some work in return for cash, but I do not do this for money. I generally give them as gifts to my close friends and relatives. People take them abroad. There are our countrymen taking them to the other cities in Turkey. This art is kind of a hobby for me, which I stay busy with in my leisure time while shepherding. For this reason, I do not ask for money," he said.
Explaining that his work is sometimes mistaken for historical artifacts and some cases have ended up in court, Gündüz said that the reliefs he carved on the mountains when he got bored crumble after a while and people look for treasure around them.
Sculptures mistaken as artifacts
Gündüz talked about some unpleasant cases he experienced because of his sculptures.
"My sculptures and objects are similar to the ones made during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Hence, it is really difficult to be able to differentiate them from the historical ones. Sometimes, even experts may be mistaken. I ended up in court so many times because of this. One of my friends wanted me to make a few sculptures to display them on his sideboard and I made him eight or 10 sculptures without asking for any money. Then I learned that he tried to sell them to undercover law enforcement officers as historical artifacts after keeping them in a cesspit for a while. He told the court that the sculptures belonged to me and my works were scrutinized. He was jailed and I was acquitted," he said.
He stated that he displays his works at his home and his garden. Meanwhile he added that he can produce much more impressive works under better physical conditions.
Object symbolizing Başyayla
Başyayla district Governor Fatih Kaşıkçı said that he was serving the district for six months and expressed his surprise about the work of Gündüz.
"He is such a skillful man. I visited him. He gave some of his works as a gift to us. We will request him to make objects symbolizing Başyayla during our second visit. We will also give the needed support for him to give courses and convey his art to the others," Kaşıkçı said.