Exhibition revives ‘Shahmaran’ myth in Mardin, Turkey


The Shahmaran myth, the 10,000-year-old intangible verbal cultural treasure of Anatolia, comes to life in the southeastern province of Mardin with a new exhibition. “Shahmaran” exhibition by artist Serra Erdoğan accentuated the historical atmosphere of Ulubey Mansion.

The “Shahmaran” exhibition is held at Ulubey Mansion, Mardin, in southeastern Turkey. (Courtesy of the artist)

Shahmaran, which means “shah (king) of snakes” in Persian, is a half-woman half-snake creature. There were many legends related to this figure in Anatolia thousands of years ago. In one of them, snakes, called maran, lived peacefully underground, and their queen was called Shahmaran. Shahmaran was a beautiful young woman. Legend has it that Cemshab was the first person to see Shahmaran.

Shahmaran lived with other snakes in the most beautiful garden in the world, far from everyone and all evil. Cemshab lived in this garden for many years and won Shahmaran’s trust. Years later, he said he missed his family and begged to leave. Shahmaran agreed to release him on the condition that he promise not to tell anyone about him. Cemshab made the promise to Shahmaran and reunited with his family. For years, he kept his promise not to tell anyone where Shahmaran was. However, he once revealed Shahmaran’s secret location.

There are several beliefs that Shahmaran lived in this region. One of them was that she lived in the province of Tarsus in south-central Turkey, and the other in the province of Mardin in the south-east. In these cities, people have Shahmaran paintings hanging on the walls of their houses.

With his latest exhibition at Ulubey Mansion in Mardin, artist Erdoğan also brings the myth of Shahmaran to life with its beautiful colors and lines on the outskirts of Mesopotamia. The “Shahmaran” exhibition offers 29 reinterpretations of the mythological creature by Erdoğan.

The artist’s book entitled “Dara” will also accompany the exhibition and a book signing session will be organized as part of the exhibition. “Shahmaran” will last until June 29.

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