Turkey has a long tradition of using black comedy or satire, known as Turkish kara mizah, to express opinions not readily sanctioned by those in power. Generally it is concerned with serious topics such as murder, death, illness, politics and war. As with most forms of satire it operates on two levels. The obvious message appears innocent enough, but is always underscored by another meaning, often ironic in form. It occurs in many art forms such as music, film, verse or fiction but the most accessible form is cartoons. One of the most famous of the many Turkish kara mizah cartoonists is the internationally renowned Selçuk Demirel.
Demirel was born in Artvin in 1954 and began publishing his illustrations when he was still in high school. Although he went on to study architecture, he continued drawing and his works appeared in prominent dailies such as Cumhuriyet and Politika. In 1978, he moved to Paris and today his illustrations have been published not only in numerous Turkish newspapers, but also in Le Monde and many other French periodicals. In addition, his works have appeared in newspapers in Switzerland, Italy, Britain and the United States. He has had numerous solo exhibitions and produced illustrated children’s books as well as collaborated with art critic, novelist, painter and poet John Berger.
Here is a small selection of works by Selçuk Demirel.
For more information on the art of kara mizah and to see work by other Turkish cartoonists click here. If you’re in Istanbul the museum is well worth a visit.