Turkish folk dancers.

Georgia‘s Senate and House of Representatives honored the Istanbul Center and other local Turkish-American organizations for their economic and cultural contributions on March 29 at the State Capitol.

Through a resolution sponsored by state Sen. Donzella James from South Fulton County and other senators, lawmakers recognized the Istanbul Center and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast for their role in increasing trade between Georgia and Turkey by 65 percent last year.

Tarik Celik, executive director for the center, accepted the Senate resolution, which recognized the contributions of the 8,000 Turkish-Americans and 500 Turkish owned businesses in Georgia.

Remarks were also made by Sen. Renee Unterman, Sen. Steve Henson and Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In celebration of the economic and cultural links between the Turkey and Georgia, the resolution established March 29, 2011, as Turkish-American Day at the Capitol.

Gov. Nathan Deal attended the festivities honoring the Istanbul Center, the Turkish American chamber, the Turkish American Federation of the Southeast and the Turkish American Islamic Institute.

After brief remarks from Mr. Deal on the growing relationship between the two regions, government officials and the public were invited to enjoy traditional folk dancing, food, art and a live drummer in the south wing of the Capitol. 

Illustrating the long history of Turkish culture, the celebration featured art from Ismet Yedikardes whose paintings depict Mardin, a town in southeastern Turkey that dates back to 4,000 years ago.

Another exhibit featured Turkish ebru art, in which the artist uses special dye to create images in water that are then absorbed by paper placed carefully over the images.

Artist Ferhat Zengul told GlobalAtlanta that this process demonstrates a unity between all beings, a principle of Sufism, a sect of Islam practiced in Turkey.

“In Sufi tradition, ego and self are not important. What is important is unity … and realizing connectedness,” he said, adding that in this tradition, ebru artists never sign their pieces.

Turkish food from local Atlanta restaurants, including Cafe Istanbul, Cafe Agora and Ali Baba was served to visitors.

For more information on the Istanbul Center, visit www.istanbulcenter.org.