Mount Ararat

Birds on a wire, Ararat Iran 2014

Birds on a wire, Ararat Iran 2014


From Olympus to Ararat

Slowly we are traveling from the Greek world of mythology and Orthodox church into the Islamic world of Turkey and soon towards the Apostolic world in Armenia. The last week we have been ‘gently’ woken every morning at four o’clock by the prayers that are being chanted from the minarettes. History stretched itself out over the countries that we are passing through. Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. I am sure of one thing; the mountains here haven’t moved as much as the borders of the countries that surround them.
I like that. People have been moving around constantly while the mountains were laying still, unstirred and rock-solid for ages.
Now after driving for three days through Turkey we arrived at the ancient and impressive mount Ararat. It lays on the Turkish border with Armenia and Iran. Ararat who welcomed us with a rainbow (!) lured us into a completely different world. We ended up in a kind of rough looking border town called Dogubayazit at the foot of the mountain and at the border of Iran. Here I found and collected some clay to make sculptures from. We watched Ararat from this side for a few days and realized that the Armenian city Yerevan is very, very closeby on the other side of this mountain. But that city lays in Armenia and the borders between Turkey and Armenia are closed, so we are going to have to drive around this closed border through Georgia for two days to be able to enter Armenia and Yerevan right on the other side of Ararat.
No problem, Ararat won’t go anywhere.


Making-clay-ararat 600px

At the end of a thread

I believe that going around something gives you a wider view about the thing you are looking at. This Mt Ararat is something different then Fuji or Olympus. Where at Olympus I have been looking at the many different faces of it and time passing by, Ararat is not a mountain where I am sitting still at one place looking at it. I am more in motion. Just going around it, in a slow pace. It feels like I have put a pin on top of it with a thread and I am on the other side of this thread trying to make a perfect circle. Which in theory is very simple, because it is an easy mountain to circle around, but in practice this takes a lot of d-tours to do so. There is a Turkish side, where we could circumambulate Mt Ararat for half a circle, then we bumped into a closed border of Armenia. From there we had to drive up through Georgia, passing some crazy roads, crisscrossing through the mountains and getting stuck late at night in small villages.

When we are being stopped on the road, by police or military, to check our luggage, the sight of the back of our car, which by now is filled with bags, buckets of clay, chicken-wire, rolls of paper etc.. gives the officials a frowning, confused expression and makes them sigh and say; “pfff oookayyy” please go!

But we finally arrived at the Georgian Armenian border and in Yerevan. Yeay! In Yerevan we are staying for a month, in an old Soviet School building at the edge of the city. There is a ceramic workshop here so Ill be making clay from the soil I brought from Turkey. From here I can continue my circle for 1/4th more until we bump into another closed border, of Nakchivan..(Azerbaijan).

To be able to complete the circle around the mountain we will have to drive through Iran to get back to Turkey. We are looking into that at the moment, because it might be difficult to bring our dear green Kermit car into Iran… These closed Armenian borders feel like a huge energy block, and I believe they should be opened soon, but I am not the one to judge that I guess.

So here from Yerevan I am happily continuing my circle around Mt Ararat at the moment, investigating the land and the people, I don’t believe a closed border can change what I see. The land belongs to the land itself, did people ever really own it? People fight over it, love it, mourn for it, defend it, but land is land, it doesn’t go anywhere. It feels like I am digging deeper in history every time we travel further. Actually digging the earth whenever I feel like it. Collecting stones and clay soil on the way. History is something I can’t stop looking into. Ancient traditions, religions customs. What did people do before me? What problems did they have? What did they feel? What did they see?

Of one thing I am sure; they saw these mountains too. Just the way as I see them now, they felt the same energy just as I feel it now when I am circling around them. I like that Idea, that people saw the same thing as I do now, a straight line into the past, and also I like it that people throughout ages are just living around this ‘old thing’, minding their own everyday business. With the mountains behind them like silent witnesses.


mountain people ararat 650px

End of the circle

Yes! we have finished this weird round around Ararat. The last part of the circle in Iran was the most difficult part to finish, but… perhaps the most impressive. The sudden change of culture was quite bizarre. While walking over the border from Armenia to Iran everything changes, especially for women. Together with Gert-Jan my partner we walked over and rented a car with a driver. We managed to visit the city of Tabriz and then travelled the area around Ararat.
For this last piece of the roundcircle we drove to Maku, the Iranian – Turkish border town. I could see the spot where we had started the journey on the Turkish side six weeks earlier. Ararat looked completely different from this side. The mountain actually consists of two mountains, one big one and one small one. The smaller one is the closest to Iran, so it became all of the sudden very visible. How great! So far we had only seen it hidden behind the big one. And now it was the other way around.
This whole journey starts to feel more and more like a metaphor of my life. It’s a cycle and I know I have to complete it. It doesn’t really go in a perfect round, It’s a curved one, and with many detours. Then along the way my ideas about myself started to change. Seeing this smaller mountain become big, made me realize that things really, really never are what they seem. And are constantly changing along the way. It feels like I am the mountain, and at the same time I am driving around myself or something like that… A disturbing and at the same time comforting thought.
This was our last mountain for now, we are going back to Amsterdam. This summer I will be working on an installation-work and exhibition at the LUMC Hospital in Holland. In a way a new mountain. After summer we are planning to travel further.
See you soon again mountains!


The mountain project continued in the spring of 2015 on the five great sacred mountains of China >