199. Today in 1920s Turkey: 7 July 1928 (Summer Fun… Gel Keyfim Gel!)

Cover illustration, Karagöz, 7 July 1928, no. 2119, page 1. Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, Beyazıt Library, Istanbul.

Comments:

Summer is the proverbial “off season” for news and politics and as such, many papers of this period, especially illustrated gazettes and satirical journals would use the sweltering heat as an excuse to feature pictures of bathing suit-clad women on their front covers. This served the dual purpose of filling space with something more lighthearted and making the papers more alluring so that people (i.e., a largely male readership) would buy them. The added use of color contributes to the attractiveness of the front page, which attracts the eye with its bright blues and reds.

The current arrangement consists of a full-page splash of beachgoers. While five women recline in various poses on the sandy beach in the foreground, several men can be seen swimming in the refreshing waters beyond. Two of these men, Karagöz and Hacivat, occupy the middle ground: Hacivat standing at the edge of the beach and Karagöz floating on his back at the center of the waters. Karagöz and Hacivat are the gazette’s two mascots, with Karagöz being its namesake. The two fictional characters are familiar to Turkish readers as the main protagonists of the traditional shadow theater plays that used to occupy coffeehouses as evening entertainment, especially during the month of Ramadan. Their “traditional” forms are preserved in the paper’s masthead above, where the two “puppets” flank the title of the paper, Karagöz (قره کوز).

The text below the image confirms the largely gratuitous nature of the illustration with a loose narrative of Hacivat wandering onto a beach and finding himself in paradise… Although he does not explicitly state the cause of his emotional stirrings, we know from the picture that it is the women lying about the beach that clearly have him bursting at the seams. Nevertheless, Karagöz serves to refocus the reader by providing a more noble pretext for this scenery. Accordingly, he advises the nation’s youth to be more proficient in swimming and other sea-related activities. Although Karagöz’s words are not directed toward any one gender, the superfluous inclusion of the sunbaked women — virtually blocking the path to the water — strongly suggests he is addressing an imagined male readership, reminding them of the full scope of possible benefits of taking on “this beautiful sport.”

Türkçe:

İstanbul’da deniz hamamları mevsimi geldi. Kadın Erkek denizden istifade ediyorlar.

Hacivad: Aman Karagöz! Ben nerelere düşmüşüm. Galiba yolu sapıtıp dalgınlıkla deniz denen cennete geldim. Hele şunlara bir bak! Alimallah içim içime sığmıyor.

Karagöz: Sen onlara bakacağına benim şu keyfime bak! Kendimi sırt üstü denize verdim mi, hele kulaçlamaya da başladım mı gel keyfim gel! Yalnız hayret ediyorum, vatanın dört bir tarafını üç deniz kuşattığı halde yüzme bilenimiz, denizcilik merakımız pek az. Gençler bari bu güzel sporu ilerletsinler.

English:

Beach season in Istanbul has arrived. Women and men are taking advantage of the sea.

Hacivad: Oh Karagöz! Where have I found myself. I think I strayed off the path and wandered into this paradise called the sea. And just look at these! By God! I can’t contain myself.

Karagöz: Instead of looking at them, take a look at how I’m getting my kicks! Once I resign myself to the sea and add in my backstroke, now how pleasant is that! Except I am astonished that even though three of the country’s four sides are surrounded by seas, there are few of us who know how to swim and have an interest in seamanship. Youngsters should at least progress this beautiful sport.

Cover illustration detail, published in Karagöz, 7 July 1928, no. 2119.

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Yasemin Gencer

Yasemin Gencer

I am an independent scholar of Islamic art and civilization specializing in the history of Ottoman and modern Turkish art and print culture.