About the film
The documentary Daughters of Anatolia began from a personal interest in traditional nomadic people who travel with goat herds and make yogurt and cheese. During my teaching and travels in the mountains of Turkey a few years ago, I landed in Saliha Gök’s tent and stayed for tea. After four years and five trips (2011-2013) of traveling and filming with them, we came out with more than just documentation of traditional yogurt and cheese making. We found lifestyles that are ancient in their connection to the earth, to the mountains, to animals and to each other. I have been humbled and extremely grateful to have been welcomed into their lives.
Daughters of Anatolia follows the Gök family, a group of nomadic goat herders, as they travel on the “Göҫ,” or seasonal migration, from the temperate winters along the Mediterranean Sea to the cool summers in the Taurus Mountains, and back again. It is a route their ancestors pursued for a thousand years in order to provide forage for the animals throughout the year. The family relies on their 350 goats for their sustenance and livelihood: They make, eat and sell cheese and yogurt from the milk. They shear, spin, weave, and sell goat wool. They butcher the animals for their own meat consumption.
Saliha and Meryem Gök are married to two brothers, Ali and Hüseyin. Ali and Saliha have three daughters, Melek, Hürü, Nazlı, as well as a son, Mehmet. They all travel together, along with Ali and Hüseyin’s father. In addition to the goats, the family owns 24 sheep, eight camels, two horses and four guard dogs.
The Gök family is part of the Sarıkeçili Yörük community in Anatolia — 175 families who have maintained their nomadic rhythms since the 12th century. The family stays at their summer mountain pasture, “Yayla,” where they milk the goats and sell homemade cheeses in a nearby village. “Yayla” is also where they shear their animals, taking some wool to market, while saving the majority to spin and weave into material for their tents. Before leaving Yayla at the end of the summer, they sell 40 to 50 goats.
During the fall and spring, the Gök family makes a four-to-six-week-long seasonal migration by foot and camel, (and, in the last period of time, with the aid of a tractor-trailer).
In recent years, their traditional nomadic routes have been impacted by land and water use restrictions that increasingly have made it difficult for them to follow their way of life. Although they purchased a tractor-trailer in hopes of facilitating travel, it is not clear whether this actually has helped or whether it rather has generated greater complications, such as due to the expense of gasoline and maintenance.
The family spends winter in the Mersin/Silifke region by the sea, called “Sehil”. Here, the four children go to school and all the new goats are born.
During these cooler, sometimes rainy, winter months, the women spin wool as well as weave panels for the tent they live in. Due to wear and tear, the tent continually needs to be repaired or replaced.
Although the rainy season makes it difficult for gathering wood and maintaining fires needed for daily cooking, Saliha and Meryem always cook two to three meals a day. They make all their own bread, yogurt, cheese and butter. In the towns they go through, they buy flour, salt, sugar, tea and fresh vegetables. However, because of recent restrictions on water rights, many families in the community have been obliged to purchase water tanks they take with them.
Where are they now? In 2014, the Gök family sold all their camels. Grandfather Gök also passed away. As of 2018, the family is still planning on settling in central Turkey near their summer pasture, “Yayla,” so that the children regularly can attend school. Their future, however, is uncertain. They and their ancestors always have been nomads; they have few marketable skills besides herding animals. Saliha and Meryem are considering raising a small herd of Angora goats for wool, meat and milk. In 2019, Meryem and Huseyin had a baby girl, Esma Nur. They will all be doing the spring Goc. This spring will be Ali and Saliha’s last Goc.They have finished building their house and they will settle in the fall. Meryem and Huseyin are still working on their own house.