written by: Eve Kanram

Ever since the Goddesses Tyche and Cybele became guardians of the land, women have been the protectors and carriers of ancient traditions. From the clothes that they weave to the tales that they tell, it is the women that have passed down their history, generation after generation.

Hazel Kara has been working as a marble mason in the town of İznik, Turkey, for 13 years. She started as an employee, and is now the owner of her workshop, and has been since 2016. Marble masonry is traditionally a male-dominated occupation, and Hazel is the only woman in the region to own a marble workshop. Hazel’s passion for ancient mosaics made her aware of her responsibility to preserve the tradition and pass her skills on to future generations. She is always thinking of new designs but also enjoys incorporating traditional techniques into her work. 

İznik, or Nicea, as it was known in ancient times was founded in 316 BCE by Antigonos, a general under the command of Alexander the Great. The town boasts of a rich history, beautiful landscapes, unique handicrafts and is currently going through UNESCO’s nomination process. Hazel feels that a UNESCO nomination would be a wonderful tool that could be used to highlight İznik’s splendid past and boost activity for other artisans in the area. The Yesil Valiz Association for Responsible Tourism acts as a stakeholder in the management of İznik, and aims to empower women, such as Hazel, through community-based tourism initiatives, which can contribute towards the conservation of culture. 

Hazel Kara is a powerful role model; she is a woman that is defying tradition through her skill as a marble mason. She is as unique as İznik itself. With passionate women such as Hazel, and those that will learn from her, we can be confident that the heritage of İznik will be safe for generations to come. 

Photo credit: (Unesco İznik – Hazel Kara Alt yazılı, © UNESCO)