At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new collection — The World Through a Lens — wherein photojournalists assist transport you, just about, to some of our planet’s most stunning and intriguing locations. This week, Sarah Pannell shares a set of pictures from the Turkish province of Rize.
The small city of Camlihemsin sits within the mountainous province of Rize, in northeastern Turkey, some 10 miles inland from the Black Sea. Built alongside the banks of the Firtina River, which runs by one of the province’s steep-sided valleys, the city is a key level of entry to the encircling Kackar Mountains. It can be dwelling to a neighborhood of Hemshin folks, an ethnic minority originating from Armenia who maintain a particular custom: black hive beekeeping.
Since their arrival in Rize a whole bunch of years in the past, the Hemshin folks have settled in varied locations all through the province — close to the city of Camlihemsin, and in smaller villages additional up the mountain. Many select to relocate in accordance with the temperature. During the cooler months, they reside in villages which vary in elevation from about 300 ft to about 1,600 ft, and within the warmth of summer season they transfer to their properties on larger plateaus, which sit up at round 6,500 ft.
Towering over the man-made settlements are the bushes of the fabled Honey Forest, or Bal Ormani, which covers the slopes of the encircling valley. Nestled among the many chestnuts, lindens and acacias that develop there are the prized hornbeam bushes, which have been used for generations to maintain bees.
High above the forest ground, out of the attain of any sweet-toothed bears, the hornbeam performs host to the black hives, or karakovan, which might be famed amongst beekeepers the world over. Made of sections of hollowed-out logs, the black hives are positioned on small platforms which were secured to the trunk and limbs of the tree. Unlike the hives utilized in fashionable migratory beekeeping, these hives will stay right here all 12 months lengthy. They will probably be cleaned at the start of summer season, and the honey produced by the Caucasian honey bees — Apis mellifera caucasia — will probably be collected towards the tip of the season.
Traditionally, these hives had been managed by the lads of the neighborhood, with every man being chargeable for round 5 hives. But that customized is evolving. Hemshin ladies at the moment are being taught these age-old beekeeping practices, within the hopes that they may play a vital position in preserving the traditions of their folks. One such lady, Özlem Erol, takes half within the hive administration. She demonstrated the beekeeping abilities she had discovered and likewise spoke of Moyy Atolye, her studio which employs local craftswomen to make home wares and apparel using contemporary adaptations of traditional designs. Her efforts are a key part of the recent movement to safeguard Hemshin culture against the threat of an exploding tourism industry.
On the drive into Camlihemsin, this incursion was evident. The once quiet single-lane cobblestone roads that led into the forest had been replaced by a two-lane concrete highway designed to accommodate thousands of tourist buses. The visitors come to ride white-water rapids and zoom along zip lines that have been constructed all around the valley. The site of this highway visibly upset Ms. Erol, who explained that it caters to a kind of tourism that is not connected in any meaningful way to local Hemshin culture. It also threatens the quiet beekeeping traditions that have been a treasured way of life here for hundreds of years.
The endangerment and potential erasure of traditions in a remote area of Turkey are, of course, representative of much larger issues. Across the globe, the cultures of ethnic minority groups are under threat as a result of geopolitical strategies and economic development, which are apt to repurpose land and resources toward more profitable — and often less traditional — ends.
But growing tourism industries can also pose a danger to the animals. In light of the current decline in global bee populations, conserving the species of bee kept in and around Camlihemsin is crucial in the fight for biodiversity. The arrival of highways and tourist attractions portend possible habitat loss in the future.
The Black Sea’s Caucasian honey bee is just one of many types that make up the wide-range of bee species found in Turkey. Each is essential for the health of existing ecosystems and each must resist the forces of disease, climate change and environmental disaster.
Here we find a commonality between the Hemshin people and their bees: Both struggle against homogenization — one for the survival of its culture, and the other just for survival.
Nic Dowse, who traveled to Camlihemsin with Ms. Pannell and collaborated with her on this project, is the founder of Honey Fingers, a Melbourne-based beekeeping practice.
Daniel Milroy Maher is an arts and culture writer based in London. You can follow his work on Instagram.