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And Then Life Began

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From September 15 to November 6, 2022, the exhibition ‘And Then Life Began – Biographic Research in Switzerland and Turkey’ will be on show at Zurich’s Photobastei.

In the 1960s, large Swiss companies were looking for low-wage workers from countries such as Turkey. Many people used this opportunity to leave their homeland – often with their families – and build a new life in Switzerland. Photographer Ayse Yavas, in collaboration with ethnologist Gaby Fierz, explores this diaspora on the basis of her own family history.

Yavas’ father arrived in Switzerland with the first wave of Turkish workers, and went on to arrange jobs for 70 of his compatriots at industrial companies in Aargau. How did these families feel, having left behind everything they knew? What did they experience, what were their hopes and dreams? What do their children’s and grandchildren’s lives look like today? Keen to fill in the gaps in her own family album, Ayse Yavas and Gaby Fierz set out to interview the photographer’s relatives, friends and acquaintances from three generations. So far, the project – which is still ongoing – has taken them from Windisch, Brugg, Baden and Zurich all the way to Anadolu Hisarı, Istanbul, and Doğancılı by the Black Sea.

With the resulting showcase, ‘And Then Life Began’, Photobastei Zurich offers insights into a cross-generational migrant experience, and addresses the complex spectrum of emotions this involves – spanning from hope for a better life, to the loss of a familiar world.  

Further details at Photobastei Zurich and Ayse Yavas

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