Monday, July 29, 2013

The Glamor of the New Turkish Woman in "Resimli Ay"

guest contribution by James Ryan

When one usually ponders the image of the canonical republican Turkish woman, a few stereotypes come to mind. The woman of the Kemalist imaginary is often older, stout in both heart and physique, and donning a headscarf in the style typical of a village teyze, somewhat loose and knotted under the chin, as opposed to the neatly put-together look of today’s pious Turkish woman. This image served a particular function in the Kemalist ideology--this was the woman who sacrificed her time and her livelihood to win the war for independence, who birthed, literally and figuratively, the citizens of the new republic and would represent the Anatolian backbone of a movement that was otherwise western and urbane in both style and substance. By perpetuating this image, however, we forget that this image had significant competition, and that the question of what the new republican woman looked like was once unsettled.  In this post, I’d like to highlight some of the alternatives that were on offer in the pages of one of the most adventurous publications of 1920s Istanbul, Resimli Ay (Illustrated Monthly).

[1] Resimli Ay No. 2, 
March (Mart) 1924. 
Resimli Ay was the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Zekeriya and Sabiha Sertel, both journalists who had previously been associated with various Ottoman-era journals like Vatan, Tanin, and Büyük Mecmua.  In 1923, the Sertels returned from a three-plus year trip to New York City, where they spent the years of the Independence War getting an education--she in social work and he in journalism -- from Columbia University. The new journal was in many ways inspired by their experiences in America, very much reminiscent of Vanity Fair or Vogue of the same time period, with covers featuring glamorous illustrations (such as those from March 1924 [1] and December 1927 [2]), and long-form articles on everything from child poverty to the latest dance crazes.  The magazine was a hefty publication for its time, typically around forty large-format pages, and cost twenty five kuruş, which was at least five times the cost of an average daily newspaper.

[2] Resimli Ay December
(Kanun-i Evvel) 1927.
In focusing strictly on the covers and other images of women featured in this magazine, we see how Resimli Ay was one of the first to capture the image of the glamorous, cosmopolitan woman that was bursting onto the scene in post-war Istanbul. This woman was ultra-modern in the sense that she wore the latest fashions of Paris and London, showed off her hair, which was cut short in a bob or similar style, and could been seen by day out and about in Beyoğlu shops and by night cavorting, dancing the foxtrot and even drinking in the neighborhood’s garden bars and nightclubs.

A series of articles in the first few issues of the magazine, entitled “Bügünkü Türk Kadınlar” (“Today’s Turkish Women”), focus on this new woman.  Alongside images of women at work in factories or attending schools are profiles of two prominent Turkish actresses, Bedia Hanım (later Bedia Muvahıt) and Münire Hanım (later Neyyire Neyir aka Münire Ertuğurul), who were fresh off of their performances in the screen adaptation of Halide Edib Adıvar’s war novel, Ateşten Gömlek (The Shirt of Flame), which, coincidentally, was the first instance of a Turkish woman on screen. The celebration of the performative presence of women in public and the celebration of glamor and contemporary fashion were one and the same in the pages of Resimli Ay.

This ultra-modern cosmopolitan image was certainly germane to the world of Istanbul’s urban elite in the early 1920s, but by the end of the decade, the idea that Turkish women were as fashionable and beautiful as their counterparts in Paris or New York became a national (and nationalist) affair.  Outdoor beauty contests were common enough in Taksim square by the mid-1920s that the New York Times submitted reports with headlines such as “Turkish Flappers Find their New Freedom Entrancing” (Dec. 20, 1925) and published articles by “Turkish Feminist” Halide Edib Adıvar on the new Turkish woman’s “Inherent Consciousness of Queening” (Oct. 7, 1928).  The idea of a Turkish beauty queen created what historian A. Holly Shissler has called a “veritable craze” by 1929, and elevated a Turkish woman to the Miss World contest by 1932.

[3] Zekeriya Sertel, “Turkey’s
Fiery ‘Joan of Arc’; Doubles in
 her Role as Leader” Nov. 26, 1922
Why then did the image of the teyze ultimately trump that of the flapper?  While there are many explanations for this, it might be worth reflecting on the role that the Sertels themselves might have had in creating that very image, if not for their audiences in Istanbul then certainly for the Americans who were paying attention. During their sojourn in New York, Zekeriya Sertel occasionally wrote for the New York Times and other publications. His first piece was a report on the progress of the independence war focused on the feminine heroism of his close friend, Halide Edib. The article, entitled “Turkey’s Fiery ‘Joan of Arc’; Her Double Role as Leader” was accompanied by the illustration at right (Nov. 26, 1922). [3]  The article details Halide’s shift from Istanbulite author of a new Turkish literature to something of a female Anatolian “rough rider”, camping out in a small country cottage, riding horses and learning to shoot a rifle. This, even for Zekeriya Sertel, was the image of the ultimate Turkish patriot, “an ever-burning volcano, throwing flames of patriotism around her.” 

However dazzling the flapper was in the new Turkish imagination, one has to admit that the image of the teyze, rooted in the formative experience of a violent and tumultuous period, has had an undeniable persistence.  Yet, it is important not to forget that this revolution paved the way for a creative wave in print and fashion that has been just as formative for modern Turkish culture.

**Copies of Resimli Ay can be found at a number of libraries and archives worldwide.  The most accessible location in Istanbul would be the library of the Basın Müzesi at Divanyolu Cad. No: 84, Çemberlitaş, Fatih Istanbul

JAMES RYAN is a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at the University of Pennsylvania. 

SHISSLER, A. Holly. “Beauty is Nothing to be Ashamed Of: Beauty Contests as Tools of Women’s Liberation in Early Republican Turkey.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24/1 (2004): 107-122.
BARAN, Tulya Alim. “Resimli Ay’da Kadın.” Toplumsal Tarih 11/63 (1999): 6-10

Citation: "The Glamor of the New Turkish Woman in 'Resimli Ay,'" James Ryan, Stambouline (July 29, 2013).

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Gardens at Yedikule

[1] Earth-movers demolishing the gardens
near Yedikule. July 2013
In the midst of the now weeks-long protests in Turkey ultimately sparked by the potential destruction of Gezi Park, activists are now bringing attention to another possible casualty of heavy-handed development policies: the gardens near Yedikule (Yedikule Bostanları). According to some recent news stories, Istanbul officials have confirmed plans to clear out the orchards and vegetable gardens near the Ottoman fortress as part of a wider effort to create a landscaped park along part of the Theodosian land walls. A farmer renting one of the gardens was told to evacuate, and by July 8 earth-movers had begun to tear up the area. [1] Mock-ups of the proposed "recreation" project, posted on the Fatih municipality website, suggest that the park, which will span from the towers of Yedikule to the gateway at Topkapı, will probably resemble something like the concrete-and-grass sprawl now outside the Theodosian walls at Edirnekapı and surrounding the new Panorama 1453 museum. [2]

[2] The park surrounding the hugely popular 1453
 Panorama Museum, outside of the gate at Edirnekapı. 
At this point, the casual observer might wonder to themselves: "What's the big deal? The gardens will not be replaced with a parking lot and a shopping mall, the plan is to create another green space." The central issue at the heart of the demolition of the Yedikule gardens is the fact that these seemingly-insignificant vegetable patches represent a very tenuous link to Istanbul's urban history--a tradition of land usage that spans the Byzantine, Ottoman and modern periods. Not many other places in the city can boast that kind of provenance. When we traditionally talk about a "historical monument," our comfort zone is to think of a tangible structure of brick and mortar, but the agricultural activity around the land walls of the old city, what UNESCO would term "intangible cultural heritage," could also be considered a monument in its own right, just as significant and deserving of protection as the Kariye Museum, or the towers of Yedikule themselves. 

[3] Cristoforo Buondelmonti, Constantinople,
15th century.
The area under question, seen in Image 1 and the Google Map below, is a series of orchards and gardens that are located due north of the Yedikule fortress, running along the inside of the historic land walls. As laid out by the archaeologist Alessandra Ricci, the agricultural production both inside and outside the land walls dates at least to the Byzantine period, with a 6th-century treatise advising which plants to grow in a particular season (greens like endive, cabbage, mustard, and rabe were recommended, eggplant and legumes not so much). Another scholar estimates that at that time, there was a total of about 13 square kilometers of orchards and gardens surrounding the Theodosian walls, with the lower parts of the defense towers being used by local farmers for their agricultural equipment. To put this in perspective, the municipality has announced that the Yedikule project is part of a wider initiative to create a park along the walls of about 9 square kilometers. In a 2004-05 study, Ricci and a group of students investigated the orchards and gardens tucked next to the land walls today, and she tentatively argues that this agricultural activity represents a rare continuous tradition of land management unique to this area. Here we will try to make a modest effort to bridge the gap and look at the gardens outside of Yedikule throughout the Ottoman period. 

[4] Photograph of the Land Walls near the gate at
Topkapı. Abdülhamid Photograph Albums, sent to
the Library of Congress in 1893-4. 
We'll start with a city view drawn by the Florentine monk Cristoforo Buondelmonti in the early to mid-15th century. [3] The land and sea walls surrounding the city are clearly seen in the bottom half of the image. Although Buondelmonti does not really note vegetation, he does indicate dense habitation in places such as the Galata quarter or the neighborhood around the Blachernae palace (on the other end of the land wall, where they meet the Golden Horn). The area near what would become the Yedikule fortress (constructed by Mehmed II shortly after the conquest, named for its seven towers), in the bottom-left corner of the image, is practically blank, suggesting a large open space near the towers that presumably was cultivated. In the 16th century, our old friend Matrakçi Nasuh shows in his view of Istanbul some greenery near Yedikule, but in this manuscript it is somewhat difficult to determine if one or two trees is intended to denote an actual garden space on the ground or rather served as a more general testament to the verdant nature of the city, almost unimaginable now in today's bustling metropolis. Moving ahead to the mid-19th-century city view that was the subject of our last post, Kaldis is more clear about the presence of agricultural activity, with a vegetable garden and trees clearly visible in the bottom-left corner where the Yedikule fortress was located. Finally, we turn to some late 19th-century photographs taken around the same area. The first [4], an image from the Abdülhamid II photograph collection sent to the Library of Congress, shows the precinct outside of the land walls near the Topkapı gate. What is notable is the foreground of the picture, where there appears to be neat rows of plants, evidence of cultivation not at all unlike what you can see now in the same place. In the second [5] photograph, a postcard of the exterior of the Yedikule fortress, but apparently more from the south or western side, nevertheless gives us an idea of the orchards interspersed with the gardens near the monument. It is precisely these types of green spaces that are currently under threat.

[5] Photographic postcard outside of the Yedikule
fortress. Late 19th-early 20th century.

On top of the historical significance of these gardens, they are also a sustainable system that provides jobs and fresh local produce to the city's markets. And why expend so much time and effort to create yet another astroturf park, when there does not seem to be any current plans in the works to further conserve and improve the visibility of the Yedikule fortress itself? Easily being one of the most fascinating  monuments in Istanbul, Yedikule has been neglected for a long time. Currently, there is almost no educational signage on the site to help a visitor understand what they are looking at. And the various cells and passageways built into the towers themselves, which are truly impressive structures, are navigated by some *very* rickety metal bridges that are not for the faint of heart. And one of the most interesting features of the monument, the Byzantine "Golden Gate" that was later absorbed into Mehmed II's fortress, is made inaccessible by a metal fence and a very irate dog. That is to say, at the moment there appears to be a general lack of concern on the part of the municipality for the cultural heritage around the land walls, whether it be "tangible" or no. 

RICCI, Alessandra. "Intangible Cultural Heritage in Istanbul: the Case of the Land Wall`s Byzantine Orchards." in the published proceedings of the 3. Ulusararasi Tarihi Yarımada Sempozyumu (Istanbul, 2008): 66-67.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Greek View on the Ottoman City: Istanbul/Constantinople (Part I)

[1] View of Istanbul by Constantinos Kaldis, 1851.
Benaki Museum, Inventory No. 30411

If you visit the Benaki Museum while in Athens (and you should!), it is hard to miss this engraving--a city view of Istanbul produced by Constantinos Kaldis in 1851. [1]  This object in many ways resembles the 16th-century view of the city that I had referenced last post, [2]  and, looking at them together, we notice that by the 19th century the European quarter in Galata to the north (the top half of the image) has expanded dramatically. We should also consider the fact that, as far as we know, Kaldis never spent much time in Istanbul; this is an image by an outsider looking in. Kaldis was a Greek Orthodox priest from the island of Lesbos, and it is believed that he trained in the tradition of printmaking developed on Mount Athos in Greece, whose workshops specialized in not only printed icons but also maps of holy places. 

 [2] Matrakçi Nasuh, 1537

Although clearly based in a European tradition of topographical engravings beginning in the 15th century, within the context of the Greek community in the Ottoman Empire, this city view also looks to illustrated guides for pilgrims to the Holy Land (such as those printed in Mt. Athos), which often featured similar types of representations of the holy cities like Sinai, Mount Athos, and Jerusalem.  Kaldis produced this print in the town of Plomari, on the island of Lesbos, where he spent most of his life. It is most likely that this engraving would have been marketed to the Greek merchant community of Lesbos, who were constantly moving between Izmir, Istanbul and the Black Sea plying their wares. The fact that the print features explanatory comments in both Greek and Ottoman Turkish (plus the French title: "Vue de Constantinople") indicates the cosmpolitanism of Kaldis's clientele. Quite large at 47 x 62 cm, this engraving probably was hawked as a less expensive means to decorate a home, either hung or pasted onto the wall. It is essentially a knock-off (the IKEA version, if you will) of topographic murals painted in the homes of wealthy merchants in the 18th century, with examples surviving from Albania to Damascus. Value is added to the black-and-white print with hand-painted embellishments in blue, green, red and yellow. Apparently the engraving wasn't a very hot commodity, however, as this print is extremely rare and seems to be almost unique in the 19th-century Mt. Athos tradition in its "secular" subject matter. Nevertheless, taking a closer look offers an opportunity to understand the Ottoman capital from a unique point of view. 

[3] Close up of the Galata Tower
This view has been designed very much with the audience in mind, including an abundance of merchant vessels crowding every available inch of the water-ways, and the most detailed representations of the city situated along the shorelines of the Marmara sea (at the very bottom of the image) and the shore of Galata in the Golden Horn. That is, the monuments which Kaldis highlights are all relatively tall and easily viewed from the perspective of someone standing in one of the ships entering the harbor areas. As for the Galata tower, which was easily the highest point at that time in the area, it is inexplicably labeled as the "Bank tower" (Bankalar Kulesi) in Ottoman Turkish, perhaps alluding to a number of money-lenders in the area, while the neighborhood itself is named "Galatas" in Greek directly to the right. [3] 

[4] Possible view of the Dolmabahçe Palace

The quarter of Galata and Pera would have especially been familiar to this merchant community in Lesbos because these settlements were the home of a vibrant blend of Armenians, Greeks, Western Europeans and Jews. Other buildings that stand out are more utilitarian. Directly below the Galata Tower on the shore is labeled in Ottoman Turkish a location every sailor would know well: "Quarantine." To the right of the tower, on the European side of the Bosphorus shore, we might have an early glimpse of the Dolmabahce Palace, which was currently under construction (begun 1846). [4] 

[5] View of the Imperial Navy Yard in Tersane

In the upper left corner, the Imperial shipyard of the Ottoman navy (in Ottoman Turkish "Tersane," labeled on the map in the Greek "Tarsana") is highlighted on the shore, with a concentration of ships and the imperial gardens of the 18th-century palace at Aynalıkavak directly above. [5] On the Asian side of the Bosphorus to the left, there is the Maiden's Tower, the 18th-century Beylerbeyi Mosque, and some kind of factory installation in Üsküdar. 

[6] View (from right to left) of the mausoleum of Süleyman,
the tower of Beyazid II, the Mosque and Mausoleum
of Fatih Mehmed II, the Hippodrome (located in the
 wrong place), and the Selimiyye. 

In the old walled city of Istanbul, again only what would have been visible to a sailor standing on the deck of his ship in the Golden Horn is emphasized: from left to right, Kaldis labels the tip of the peninsula where the imperial Topkapı Palace stood (Sarayburnu), Hagia Sophia, Yeni Camii, the Süleymaniyye (with the tomb of Süleyman larger thant the mosque!), the Beyazit Tower, and the Fethiyye mosque (also with the tomb of Mehmed II highlighted). Confusingly, the area of the Hippodrome (labeled in Ottoman as "At Meydanı") with its obelisk and spiral piers, has been located in Fatih, not in its actual location further east next to Hagia Sophia and the Topkapı Palace. [6] This could be attributed to the fact that Kaldis would not have spent much time in this area of the city. This being said, the lack of emphasis on the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fatih, or in fact any major Christian monument besides the Hagia Sophia, is curious.  Perhaps this city view was designed to grace the walls of Christian and Muslim alike in Ottoman Lesbos. 

Explore more at the Benaki Museum

**See Part II of "A Greek View on an the Ottoman City": Izmir/Smyrna

DELIVORRIAS, Angelos. Ed. From Byzantine to Modern Greece: Hellenic Art in Adversity, 
1453-1830. Catalogue of Exhibition held at the Onassis Center in New York City, 2005-2006. New York: Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, 2005.

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