54. Today in 1920s Turkey: 29 January 1923 (A Clever Cartoon of Combat and Courtship)

Cartoon, published in Akbaba, 29 January 1923, no. 16, page 1.

Love and Sport
1 (١). Eye to eye
2 (٢). Head to head
3 (٣). Bosom to bosom
4 (٤). The outcome: exhaustion

Aşk ve Spor
1 (١). Göz göze
2 (٢). Baş başa
3 (٣). Kucak kucağa
4 (٤). Netice: yorgunluk

Turkish satirical journals of this period often included cartoons that explored male-female relations and romance with varying degrees of risqué content. Here we are presented with a playful comparison between practices involved in courtship and those more closely related to competitive “sports,” specifically wrestling. This witty juxtaposition being that while sports involve conflict and one side dominating the other, love involves non-competitive mutual agreement. Yet, as the cartoon illustrates, both wrestling and love making often follow similar patterns.

This cartoon strip may at first appear a bit confusing. It is divided into two sides with “love making” occupying the four frames on the left and “combat sport” occupying the four frames on the right. Above each frame is a number from 1 to 4 on either side. Number 1 on the left and right are parallel views of the first stage of love/sport; number 2 on the left and right are parallels of the second phase of love/sport etc. Similarly, the text below each cartoon is the same for the two “versions” of their respective numbers, meaning, number 1 on the right and left have different images but the exact same text explaining the visual content. As such:

  1. Both love and wrestling begin with the gaze (eye contact vs. “stare down”).
  2. Both love and wrestling continue with bodily contact (embrace vs. “the clench”).
  3. Both activities continue with increased “familiarity” (intertwining vs. “the take down”).
  4. Both activities end with a common conclusion of “exhaustion” regardless of whether or not somebody “wins.”
Entire page, Akbaba, 29 January 1923, no. 16, page 1. Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, Beyazıt State Library, Istanbul.

Originally published at https://steemit.com on January 30, 2019.



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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.