Istanbul’s famous Bosporus strait … The captivating scenery on either side of this waterway that runs through the city mesmerises the onlooker. I always believed that beauty was not in the eye of the beholder. And the Bosporus is beautiful to whoever sets eyes on it.

Yonca Ebuzziya has been looking at the Bosporus from the same window since the day she was born. Formerly a fishing village with a predominantly Anatolian Greek population, Istinye is her unchanging refuge. These deep roots, this allegiance has made her a noble Istanbulite and a fervent traveller of the city…

Curious by nature, Yonca Ebuzziya is the child of a physician father and a mother who was a rower in the national team. She grew up in a family that valued art and literature. On the other hand, the surname Ebuzziya that is coming from her husband is a title that witnessed many stories in Ottoman history.

Their ancestor Ebuzziya Tevfik Bey was a prominent publisher, printer, author and artist who handed over his profession to future generations. What intrigued me most was that Yonca Ebuzziya’s multi-disciplinary career was not by coincidence. As if were a family tradition, she felt compelled to experience different artistic disciplines and live a life that revolved around art.


Yonca Ebuzziya has always started the day with a breath of fresh sea air. Her brother lives next-door, she lives a life connected with her childhood memories. Istinye used to be a village so she feels the urge to identify herself as a villager. “I attended Istinye State Primary School. I used to walk to school down through the woods, wearing my swimsuit under my uniform. The woods are still there but the nearby houses with gardens have been replaced with apartments. I’d start to take my uniform off on my way home. Then I’d jump in the sea right by my house. Istinye was more of a summer resort back then. It seemed beyond the reach of the city, a village by the Bosporus with beautiful mansions.”

Undoubtedly means were limited in my childhood. But we lived an Istanbul where you could drink tap water, join a rowing club which is where I learned swimming and my mother took up rowing.


It seems Yonca Ebuzziya has pursued the atmosphere of her childhood, those familiar melodies. While still at primary school, she started training at a nearby conservatory. Those melodies she heard at home and the conservatory got etched in her brain …

Ebuzziya feels she owes her strong background to her training at the conservatory. Each Friday after school, she would go to a concert. “The sound of a different instruments would emanate from every room in the conservatory. Ballerinas, musicians, theatre rehearsals… It was a time when the conservatory was frequented by the most important figures of the art scene of the time – from Yıldız Kenter to Muammer Yeşil and Önder Bali. It was like an all-star cast.”


After two-year training in painting at Mimar Sinan University, Ebuzziya graduated from the Ankara State Opera and Ballet. As a small child she would spend hours drawing ballerinas and grew up to devote her life to ballet. ‘Ballet trained my body and soul.” Yonca Ebuzziya has made most of every opportunity life has offered her. She felt the same dedication after discovering her interest in archaeology. Yonca Ebuzziya is lucky in this regard as well, because both her husband and her father-in-law own a valuable archaeology collection.


Being a ballerina never really appealed to her. One of her first job experiences was being a lecturer in the history of costumes. The best time in her professional career was the years when she was a model and choreographer. Her first appearance on the catwalk was for Vakko which was followed by Beymen, Vizon Show and others. Her real aim in trying out modelling was to climb the ladder towards becoming a choreographer. From being a magazine editor to modelling, choreography to TV show presenter, Ebuzziya ended her professional career after working as a brand ambassador at Borusan Otomotiv for 18 years. As the first brand ambassador of Turkey, Ebuzziya self-taught herself this profession with plenty of research. About her creatively challenging transformation for her first curating experience as a brand ambassador, Yonca Ebuzziya says, “I always strived to create a better exhibition or organisation from the one before. It was a time where I rediscovered myself, I learned and matured.”


Yonca Ebuzziya loves to travel and explore new places. The oases of art in Italy, South France and New York are on the top of her list. ‘An appointment with art’ is a collective in which Ebuzziya transforms a hobby into a profession. After receiving news that acclaimed director Ferzan Özpetek’s ‘La Traviata’ is scheduled to be staged, she calls tourism agent Ayşe Kaynarcalı to organise a tour of Napoli. This is how ‘An appointment with art’ all started. The fabulous idea of taking art lovers to a concert, museum or exhibition at any place in the world is such a sound concept.


Yonca Ebuzziya loves to walk. She tells me that she will walk back to Dolmabahçe and catch the ferry after our chat. Hearing tips from a person who knows the city like the back of her hand is a privilege. We talk about how a stopover at Nişantaşı Beymen Brasserie or an evening meal with friends at Park Şamdan bears traces of a different culture. Yonca Ebuzziya also has a prized list of her favourite diners and street food joints: Havuzlu Lokanta in the Covered Bazaar, Aslan Restoran near Nuri Osmaniye are only a few.

Istanbul was her saviour during the pandemic as well. “Except for the periods of full lockdown, I spent all my time wondering around the old city, walking through each and every gate of the ancient fortifications. I visited open museums over and over again like I had never been there before. Recently, Arter Art Gallery has been a breath of fresh air for me.” One of Yonca’s icons is her sister-in-law Alev Ebuzziya who opened her most recent exhibition at Arter. “Alev is actually a sculptor who has devoted herself to ceramics. She doesn’t make bowls, she makes sculptures. Her personality, her perspective, kindness and unassumingness… she is an amazing woman.”

Yonca Ebuzziya relates most to classical Greek art. She claims that since Istanbul was founded together with Rome, it is impossible for the two cities to detach from each other artistically. That said, Ebuzziya is very unhappy with Istanbul’s unplanned growth and profit-led destruction.

“I admit that I don’t like what Istanbul has become. But I will never not like it. Istanbul is what made me and now I’ve dedicated myself to finding anything that remains from that former Istanbul.”

She walks from Sultanahmet to Cankurtaran, from Samatya to Yedikule and sometimes even from Edirnekapı to Ayvansaray. On every occasion she finds herself in a different Istanbul. She tracks down art. I walked all around Istanbul as we conversed.