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.
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
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
“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.
in Cyprus Today on 27 January, 2007).
Author's Note: I found
a photo showing young caricaturists exhibiting in Nicosia.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.