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The People’s Choice – Images of Research 2020

25 January 2021

By Nilsu Erkul, PGR in Welsh School of Architecture, Winner of the Images of Research 2020 ‘People’s Choice’ award

The Images of Research ‘People’s Choice’ award is award conferred, not by the panel of judges, but by the public, reflective of the value that public engagement and outreach bring to research.

Below, the 2020’s People’s Choice winner offers some thoughts on their image submission and the online Images of Research event.

Frozen and Hidden Memories of 1974 by Nilsu Erkul, Welsh School of Architecture, PEOPLE’S CHOICE

“With last year’s shift to online spaces, visual and creative communication became really crucial for us as researchers. That’s why when I first saw the Images of Research competition I wanted to take this opportunity to challenge myself and put my research ‘out there’ to be seen and heard by others. It was an amazing experience to be able to see images created by other PGRs and gain insight into their research. This competition has shown us how diverse the research community of Cardiff University is.

As a doctoral candidate in the Welsh School of Architecture, working on both the tangible and intangible aspects of a city, I wanted to capture both of these elements in my entry. I wanted to illustrate the two silhouettes of Varosha, the one on the left illustrating the part of Varosha frozen in 1974 with evacuated buildings concealing memories of that time; and the one on the right illustrating the part of Varosha that has had the chance to develop with time, becoming a touris destination and place of interest as an abandoned town. By merging these two shots, I wanted them to represent trapped memories that I have been investigating in my research and what Varosha would have come to if it hadn’t been isolated from its mother city, Famagusta. During my high school years, my school was just right next to the barricades hiding Varosha from the rest of the city. I had passed by millions of times not thinking about how, with a twist, I could turn to look at Varosha.  I was, just the other Cypriots, experiencing the separation as a daily life activity.

During the 1970s, Varosha was once the rising tourism centre in the Mediterranean. In 1974, when Cyprus was divided, the town was ahead of its time in cultural, economical, social and architectural developments. Ever since then, Varosha district has been a bargaining chip in the political arena, left to decay by the armed forces. Frozen in 1974, the town embodies the lessons of the past and reminders of the glorious days of the Varosha. That’s why, in my research, for the first time, I am investigating Varosha in the heritage arena through both the tangible and intangibles values of this ghost town as a contested heritage. Hopefully, my research will show that it is crucial to build on the long history and accept the scars given by the time as a lesson to move on to the next chapter rather than erasing the past. On my behalf, I was very pleased to have won the People’s Choice award. It means a lot to me if this competition has made anyone in any part of the world aware of what’s happening in Varosha and has given insight into my research.

When I first embarked my PhD journey, right in the beginning of a challenging and rough year, it made me question whether or not I would be able to explore the full potential of doing a PhD,  such as making academic connections or attending conferences. Luckily, I  have never been or felt alone on this journey, and I am lucky enough to work on research that hits close to home. This has made it easier to stay motivated and passionate for my research.

With the wide range of training opportunities and activities offered by the Doctoral Academy, such as the Images of Research and Three Minute Thesis Competition, I have been able to engage with the wider research community. These experiences have contributed to an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see what more is to come along in the rest of my time here at Cardiff University.

Find out more about Nilsu’s image and research.

Follow Nilsu on Twitter @ErkulNilsu

Catch up on the conversation at @CardiffDA on Twitter


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