Rümeysa Önal
Practice Social Practices
Project Cultural Diversity
Major Animation
Year Fourth Year

First Bachelor Research Award

Nomination Drempelprijs

During infancy, we establish our fundamental mechanism of perception. Our developing subconscious is our internal library of information which we rely upon without even being aware of it.

Hayat, still

What if along the way the information we unquestionably have internalised is distorted, manipulated or false? This happened often in human history where rival groups or communities fed false narratives about the other to maintain a sense of normalised extremism or to justify destructive behaviour. Blind certainties have always proven catastrophic results (injustice, genocide, slavery and more).

Today, unquestionably, these patterns of violence are still very much present in the world we live in, it takes a different type of strength to acknowledge that historical violence is repetitive. We might look the other way or have become immune to it, but that doesn’t change the reality for a significant amount of people.

As someone with a diverse cultural background, I had a prolonged identity discovery phase with questions about my migrant roots and the significant differences between western and middle eastern philosophies and lifestyles. It took a while to find my voice, but taking my time and embracing all the layers of identity I own has proven to be rewarding. Thanks to the guidance and content which I had received through my minor Cultural Diversity, I could finally give everything its place and channel the sometimes overwhelming emotions to meaningful concepts.

Hayat, still

Social structures and its meanings are intangible, the consequences of it are physical. Relying on sciences that occupy itself with the way consciousness works and how we generate meaning I produced an animated short that displays a different perspective on the middle eastern lifestyle and philosophy.

Istanbul used to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire and it was also the capital of Islamic civilisation. During the golden era of Islam many sciences and art forms have been developed. But to uphold specific power structures today (as previously mentioned), the beauty, rich history and culture of middle eastern and Islamic civilisation are being tucked away while people of that ethnic background are being degraded and marginalised. As someone who benefits immensely from Islamic principles and middle eastern philosophy, it disturbs me a great deal to witness this happening.

I remember how captivating it was when my parents showed me the maiden tower, a fire tower in the middle of the Bosporus Sea. My father told me the story of the maiden tower.

Once upon a time there was a sultan, the sultan had seen a dream that showed him that he was going to lose his beloved daughter. Upon waking up, he builds the maiden tower and places her there in the middle of the sea. Every day, he would watch the tower from his window with ache in his heart. Sad for his daughter to be there alone, but glad that she is safe from any jeopardy to her life. Until one day, a snake creeps in the basket of food delivered to her and bit her which led to her death.’

Hayat, still
Hayat, still

I kept listening, but my dad stopped telling. Apparently, that was it. I was absolutely shocked. How could death be the end of the story? I detested it at that moment because the mind always desires the happy endings. Some prince kissing her awake or the sultan still catching the snake at the last moment. But no.

Hayat, still

There is a specific amount of breaths given to any living being, you go when the time comes. 

Middle Eastern narrative structure has been very much influenced by the Islamic laws of life. There is a specific amount of breaths given to any living being, you go when the time comes.  Death is a concept that is embodied and embraced in daily life. Not in the way western media displays it, but in a poetic way to embrace it and be at peace with the inevitable and probably the most universal concept and the fate of every single living being.

This story is a typical one that clearly emphasises that even if you are the sultan of an empire, you can not prevent death.

Hayat (teaser). Animated film (03:39 minutes), 2D animation, mixed media.


Film Poster
Don't miss your chance to ask Rümeysa questions on Friday, July the 6th 8:30-22:00 during Epilogues, an evening showcasing the stories told by the WDKA Animation Class of 2018 (Blaak 10 building).



Robert-Jonathan Koeyers
Show work
Graphic Design


Camie Roos
Show work
Spatial Design

Now or Never Again

Marieke Widlak
Show work