Heidi Trautmann

691 - Musa Kayra and his personal show in Catalköy...5th Besparmak Days

On the occasion of the 5th Besparmak Culture and Art Days


By Heidi Trautmann


The Municipality of Catalköy and here the Cultural Director Derman Atik have ART and CULTURE written on their flag, not only the theatre and their lovely new theatre building but also fine arts, photography and streetart - this year it was 3D painting – everybody was amazed to experience the Trompe d’oeil painting – it proves that the human mind is easily deceived – and…caricature/cartoons which is to be the reason for my article.


Caricature/Cartoon is one of the oldest art forms to criticize the ruling bodies. In the Middle Ages the artists used pen names because critics were punished heavily, even today in many countries by penalty of death.

One of the first caricaturists/cartoonists in North Cyprus is Musa Kayra and in 1986 he established the Turkish Cypriot Cartoonists Association under which roof now the 3rd International ‘Olive’ Contest 2014 is running. The results will be shown on the occasion of the 13th Olive Festival in Zeytinlik from Oct 10-14.

I have followed Musa on the road of cartoons for many years and for my new book Volume II of ‘Art and Creativity in North Cyprus’ I have interviewed him. Here some excerpts:




born in 1949 in Çamlıca, near Limassol


The Weapon of a peaceful Man


What is the difference between a caricature and a cartoon? “A caricature,” explains Musa Kayra, “is derived from the Italian verb caricare, to exaggerate; a deliberately distorted drawing or imitation of a person or situation, exaggerating features or mannerisms for satirical effect.”  It can be a weapon, a means of exposing social and political wrongs and weaknesses and it has been used as such since ancient times. Since the eighteenth century, caricature has been an independent art form, with Honoré Daumier then being the best-known exponent. A cartoon is a more modern form of illustration and can also be used for critical purposes, often through transposing a situation into the animal world, but also to entertain people with picture series in our visual media-oriented world.


……Musa Kayra was born in 1949 in the Turkish Cypriot village of Plataniskia/Çamlıca, near Limassol.  He recalls:  “My parents worked their own land and we lived from what we produced.  My father was a soldier for the British army for four years and then he joined the auxiliary police in 1955.  I had a normal childhood with my three siblings, helping on the land and playing boys’ games in our free time.”

“Still, there was a tension of fear creeping through our village streets when in 1955 the conflict with the Greek Cypriots started, and our houses had to be locked. We would keep heavy tools behind the front door to be used as weapons against any surprise attack. I was five years old then and the fear came to inhabit our minds. We became introverted and were unable to form healthy relationships. And that is still so today, this trauma has cast a shadow on our souls.”

While I listen to him, Mom Kayra throws in remarks from her memories, while Dad sits still, watching carefully. 


…..But life was far from being fun in those days. In 1963, as a 14-year-old, he joined in to defend his community as an ‘afternoon soldier’, as soon as he came home from school. In 1968, he was finally able to go and study visual and performing arts at the Fine Arts Academy of Istanbul, but when he returned to Cyprus in 1972 to undertake a film project on Turkish Cypriot theatre and folk art for the completion of his diploma, he fell straight into the misery of the time. He tried, unsuccessfully, to pursue his project, lacking both information and the tools he needed: a camera and money – when he finally found a camera for Cyp£100 in Ledra Street, he was confronted by the riots of July ’74. His family was still in Limassol and when he returned there, he was arrested, along with many others. Women and children were set free, but the men were held hostage in concentration camps.

……What are the requirements for being a caricaturist, I wonder. 

“As in any other art discipline it is observation, attentiveness to whatever happens around you, and emotional neutrality as far as it is possible, and finally the ability to find the weak points.”

But don’t you have to have some experience of life, before you can do the job of a caricaturist?

“Oh yes, that’s true, and above all you have to use humour and allegorical means to say what you want to say and with as few words as possible, or even no words at all.”

……“In 1986, I established the Turkish Cypriot Cartoonists’ Association together with my friends and colleagues Hüseyin Çakmak (president of the association), Serhan Gazioglu, Cemal Tunceri, Alper Susuzlu. We did exhibitions together, went worldwide, invited other colleagues from abroad, kept ourselves informed and helped each other along.”

Musa Kayra has come a long way in the time between his two published books Cızzzgıcıklar in 1983 and Karikayra in 2004 – which feature his caricatures over 25 years.  He is a celebrity in the international world of caricatures and still carries his pen as a beacon to enlighten people. He has received many international and national prizes and awards, particularly for his work for peace and environment.

After the obstacles and setbacks of his life, what is his message for the future?

“Born in war, I spent my life with my heart in chains. Nothing has changed, we still live in a ghetto,” he says. “Let peace come, I shall work for it with my pen; for peace and love all over the world.

His book Karikayra is available from all Deniz Plaza shops, Galeri Kültür in Nicosia, Işık Bookshop, and the newsagent at the top of Kyrenia High Street.

(Published in Cyprus Today on 27 January, 2007).


Author's Note: I found a photo showing young caricaturists exhibiting in Nicosia.


Amendment: 2007-2013

In the years that have passed I have met Musa often at art and social events observing things with and without his camera. He is ‘taking notes’ for later use.

For the amendment I met Musa at his old apartment in Kyrenia, also meeting his cousin again whom I had met in 2007, but alas his parents have both gone from this world. Musa Kayra is President of the Cartoonists’ Association again, but things are not so good anymore because of lack of support and interest from the official sides and the media.

In the period 2008-2009 Kyrenia Municipality still supported the first and second International Cartoon Competitions on the occasion of the Zeytinlik Olive Festival with the Olive being the theme of the competition. I had taken part as well and got a prize of special mention. I had taken part because I wanted to know how things were running in a competition with international cartoonists. One book was published in connection with the 7th Olive Festival; altogether two publications were made, and the third one is ready for print in the drawer of Musa Kayra.

In Turkey, I tell Musa, there are museums established for the art of caricature, so it seems that this art is well accepted there. “Oh yes, that is different in Turkey, it has a long tradition and is well established, it has become a cultural asset and not like here, something to be avoided. Just recently a new museum was opened in Izmir.”

What is he doing now since activities have become thus restricted, I asked. “There is still the Pulya Festival once a year in Yeni Boğazıcı but that is not enough. In our association there is still the same number of members but all of them are working for themselves. It is heart-breaking to see the olive trees the international cartoonist guests have planted in 2008 in front of the Amphitheatre in Kyrenia neglected and to have the memorial sign on the act of planting demolished. It is demoralising to have promises in your pocket to finance an international event, i.e. entertaining the guests and in the end you don’t get the money and have to pay it out of your own pocket.” I can only agree with it. The art of caricature and cartoons is very powerful worldwide and is a very important tool in the fields of culture and tourism, but unfortunately this fact has not yet been understood in North Cyprus.

What is he doing outside the duties for the association?

“I am rather busy with acting in the committee of a new project, that is the getting together of Limassol refugees. We had our first grand gathering last year on 3rd June at a picnic alongside the highway between Kyrenia and Nicosia, 5000 people attended and it was very touching. We have been working to found an association of Limassol refugees. For the next gathering which will take place on 26th May, we will organise the publishing of the second edition  of the book ‘Nisan Yüzügü’ by Engin Nasit, who was a commander of the Mücahits. Furthermore, we will prepare an album until the 26th including the photos of people from Limassol. Therefore recently, I am scanning and adding those to my archive. These are all sorts of photos, of family and their homes with captions. In the new Kyrenia Cultural Centre we shall have a space as a Museum for the Limassol Refugees, it is to retain an affinity to one’s cultural roots.


Musa Kayra, always active to brood about ways to ascertain that Cypriot culture is not forgotten and using his art to admonish his people and holding his pen up like a torch in order for the people to find their way in the darkness of the time.

5th Besparmak Arts and Culture Days
5th Besparmak Arts and Culture Days

3-D-Painting in Catalköy
3-D-Painting in Catalköy

Olive Festival with Exhibition of 3rd Cartoon Contest 2014
Olive Festival with Exhibition of 3rd Cartoon Contest 2014

The Contest Jury
The Contest Jury

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