Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cartooning in Turkey

 In 2006 I was invited over to Turkey along with some other FECO UK cartoonists to take part in a Children's Rights cartoon project - here's part of the article I wrote for Foghorn at the time.

Ankara, the bustling capital of Turkey, was the venue for the first ‘Cartoon and Children’s Rights’ Project. FECO UK’s Roger Penwill, Andy Gilbert, Ian Ellery, Alex Noel Watson and Tim Harries were invited along to take part.

We arrived, bleary eyed at around 4.30am on Thursday 11th May. After a couple of hours sleep we met our wonderful translator Poyzan and our thoroughly excited project co-ordinator Emrah and before you can say “I’ll just have some soup”, we were whisked off to ‘Brunch’. This was the first in a long line of never ending meals! After being fed and watered, we enjoyed the first meeting with our gracious host Nezih Danyal at his Cartoon Foundation headquarters. Sightseeing followed (including a visit to a beautiful Mosque) and after a quick rest, we were out again for a meal and a chance to get to know the Turkish cartoonists (Tan Oral, İzel Rozental, Kamil Masaracı, Semih Poroy and Muhammet Şengöz) and the other co-ordinators including our invaluable guide Tuba and Nezih’s wife Hulya . Back at the hotel, there was time for a nightcap and then the chance to get some rest and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

Ok, now we had to actually do some work. Heading for the British Council, we marveled at the unique traffic systems and the drivers ability to fit a minicab through any gap. Having arrived safely, we made our way to the Council’s offices and the workshop began, ably chaired by Dr Serdar Değirmencioğlu. Ideas were discussed, thoughts aired and opinions given. And drawings. We made lots of drawings! Seeing everyone’s work at the end of the session was an enlightening and enjoyable experience - learning how different cartoonists can interpret the same subjects.

Again, we headed to the British Council, making time there to chat to ‘big cheese’, Chris Brown. He said very nice things about cartoonists, so naturally we allowed him to have his picture taken with us. The workshop was once again a great experience - we picked some different aspects of children’s rights to discuss and set about illustrating the points raised - everyone was eager to get drawing in this session, so the talk was kept to a minimum and we tried to let the cartoons speak for themselves. It was fun to see the Turkish cartoonists furiously scribbling away when English was being spoken, and we doing likewise at the first sound of Turkish. Scribble scribble..

Everyone gathers for the group shot.

Inbetween eating our own bodyweight in food every mealtime, we were ferried around the sights of Ankara. Poyzan, Tuba and Emrah were excellent and most accommodating guides, answering our questions and helping with any translations. We managed to visit Ataturk’s Mausoleum - a vast, impressive monument to the founder of modern Turkey, the Ankara Museum, containing an array of treasures, and the vertigo inducing Ankara Castle which afforded quite spectacular views of the city from its walls.

Now this was fun! We headed to the Kavaklıdere Art Gallery for the Kids Workshop - a chance to interact and draw with the children of Ankara. This is where Andy really came into his own. Before we’d even had a chance to sharpen our pencils, Andy had leapt into action, immediately sitting down with a large group of toddlers who within minutes were following his every word. (I really don’t think a translator was needed!) He worked hard with them and it was a joy to watch as they followed his guidance, drawing funny faces. The photos really show the great time they had. The rest of us were busy too, drawing for a slightly older crowd. Despite the language barrier, we could work out what they wanted to draw - usually robots or dinosaurs. Or robot dinosaurs.
The gallery was also the setting of a presentation, with each cartoonist receiving a Cartoon Foundation crystal award from Nezih. As he was fond of saying, it was ‘Laaahvely’

Andy Gilbert takes a cartoon class with the local kids.
The next day an early morning call got us out of the hotel at 6.30am and as Emrah waved us goodbye, we made a plan for 2007. Pretend we’re a different county every year and keep coming back. Shhh ...don’t tell anyone.

Thanks to Nezih, everyone at the Cartoon Foundation and all who made this a Turkish trip to remember!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great job with the kids, Jim! I love your cartoons!
I do a comic focusing on sibling rivalry with Jay Stephens. Here's a link.
-Bob Weber Jr.