Esma Yiğitoğlu (Zincidere, 1944 – Rotterdam, 2009) is a renowned artist known for her sculptures, drawings, and paintings created using natural materials such as paper pulp, loam, and terracotta. Her works are steeped in the traditions of Sufism and architecture, drawing inspiration from symbols such as amulets, graves, minarets, and mosques.
She moved to the Netherlands in 1961 and studied at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam between 1961 and 1966. Her works were exhibited in Turkey and the Netherlands such as Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, National Gallery of Modern Art in Lisbon, Pulchri Studio in The Hague, and TENT Rotterdam, and featured in several publications such as Vanuit Turkije en Marokko by Stedelijk Museum Schiedam and Turken Kunst en Kultuur by Artoteek Dordrecht.
Yiğitoğlu was also actively involved in cultural events and activities, particularly those related to the empowerment of Turkish women. She organized sewing lessons for Turkish women to bring them together and mobilise them, and her efforts eventually led to the creation of the Turkish Cultural Center for Women in Rotterdam. Yiğitoğlu organised various exhibitions about Turkish culture for municipal institutions and worked to combat the illiteracy of Turkish women to make it easier for them to function in Dutch society. She played a crucial role in the emancipation of Turkish women in a period of discourse for the Turkish migrant families living in Rotterdam.
Esma Yiğitoğlu is one of the artists of the exhibition Hidden Narratives Through Archives (2023) curated by Nesli Gül which takes place from 3 March to 16 April at Framer Framed, Amsterdam.