By Arwa Lodhi
In these times of conflict, anger and confusion, one artist is trying to make a difference. Metin Bereketli is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work has appeared in some of the most prestigious galleries around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Pacific Design Centre, as well as in the pages of Cosmopolitan, Maison Francaise and the New York Times.
Lauded by no less than three former American Presidents and celebrities including Jay Leno and James Caan, Bereketli dedicates the messages in his work to concepts we badly need to pay attention to now more than ever: human diversity and world peace.
Here in this exclusive interview, Metin tells Eluxe about the wonder of birds, the purity of children and the importance of eco-consciousness.
What is the earliest memory you have of being in nature?
I was born on the shores of the shimmering blue Aegean Sea in Izmir, Turkey and the natural splendor of my environment influenced the person I am today. The spectacular colors of a thousand sunsets, blue-green seas and sparkling white sand changed my life forever. I attempt to capture these colours in my artwork every day—it is my true passion to share this gift with the world. Words alone cannot explain these splendors—only art can attempt to capture their glory.
Has the natural world inspired your work, in any way?
I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of the sea. The marine life and birds that live there bring such joy to my world. Many of my paintings depict birds because I feel they hold the sacred spiritual significance of freedom. Birds have the ability to walk on earth, float on water and soar in the air. They are thought to be a symbol of ultimate earthly freedom; to be a creature that is of the air, land and water.
What’s the most positive thing you do for the environment in your daily life?
I believe eating natural foods grown organically is not only healthy but it also helps the environment. By not adding any chemicals into the water supply and ground we help to protect the earth. Small animals, birds and beneficial insects are also left unharmed. Because organic farmers are continually adding organic matter to the topsoil we prevent erosion and it also helps to relieve the amount of waste in the landfills.
What’s your greatest eco ‘sin’?
As I’ve gotten older I truly try my hardest to be “eco-conscious” but my greatest regret is that I haven’t been able to share my philosophy of stewardship on an expanded global level. Getting the word out on what each person can do to contribute to the greater good would be a life-long dream fulfilled for me.
What would be your eco-friendly dream travel destination?
I would love to travel to all the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Seeing something that has been in existence for thousands of years would be so humbling. Walking on the same ground, basking in the same warm sun and touching the same cool stone these ancient civilisations felt would be such a powerful and life altering experience.
What are you proudest of so far in your career?
I am most proud of my charitable work for children with disabilities. Several times a year I sponsor workshops for these children in which I teach them how to paint with carefree exuberance. It’s absolutely miraculous how uninhibited they become when given a paint brush. I show them how to let go of all their fears and open their hearts and souls to this new found abandon. Their smiles and laughter bring me such pleasure and I am truly blessed to be able to bring them such happiness. Children are true artists. If we allow children to express themselves with colours, with shapes, we can get closer to them because they are expressing their silence on paper or canvas.
What are your favorite ‘green’ skincare, food, home or fashion brands?
I mainly use local organic products wherever I am. Natural soaps and deodorants as well as skin moisturisers. I grow my own aloe that I use for bug bites, sunburn and wound care. I think that it is very important to support organic farmers and “farm to table” businesses thus enabling me to limit my carbon footprint as much as possible.
Which high profile person trying to make a difference do you most admire, and why?
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have both pledged to give away the vast majority of their wealth to humanitarian causes. Their biggest donations are to help support world health. This is something most us of take for granted but unfortunately much of the world suffers from severe lack of such basic needs as clean water, getting enough to eat and vaccinations against diseases. The foundations these men have created will give a future to people in dire need and who have had little hope until now.
When and where are you happiest?
Wherever I am at the moment—living life to its fullest is what makes me happy. Experiencing life every day and finding joy in even the smallest things is true contentment. Painting and creating art brings me the hope to bridge differences and connect people from different backgrounds and experiences; not only healing the wounds that are seen but healing the wounds that are felt deep within their souls. This would be true happiness!
For which cause would you die, if any?
I can’t imagine dying for a cause would be very helpful to anyone. So I prefer to live life to the fullest—giving back to my community, making people smile, spreading love and light through my art. This life is meant to be lived and cherished and that’s what I’m doing.
Which environmental issues are most important to you?
I feel very strongly about the importance of access to clean water. This may sound simple to us but for many polluted water is a sad truth. According to UNICEF over 3,000 children die every day worldwide due to contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have helped bring this distressing fact to the forefront so more people with power, influence and funds can make these basic human necessities possible.
What’s the main thing you think we all need to do to ensure a better future?
I think if we can provide personal protection, education and health services to the world’s children we will be able to open their eyes to kindness of humankind. Children are our future hope for tolerance, understanding of universal diversity and freedom. Teaching children that they have the power to bring about change, ensuring all people the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and the freedom from fear. What an incredible place we would live in if given these freedoms!