• Art / Design / Craft,  People

    City Sketcher

     © Samantha Zaza One of the things I wanted to do when I started this site was to provide sketches of city life. Before launching I worked furiously for a couple of hours every day, honing my skills. But I’m not there yet, and will continue to rely on my photographic skills in order to present the visual component of most of my stories for the time being. © Samantha Zaza That’s why I want to take the time to introduce you to a terrific artist we have working away right here in Istanbul already providing incredible glimpses into the beauty and mystery of this city and others. You may have noticed her site Harika (meaning wonderful, fantastic, incredible … in Turkish) listed on the blog roll to your right before today, but I really hope you’ll visit it — that’s why I’ve stopped myself at just three of her sketches. The thing I…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Istanbul’s new chanteuse

    A LUMINOUS NEW TALENT SINGING HER HEART OUT. Istanbul is a tough mistress. Even if she loves you, she doesn’t make life easy. Whether you’re Turkish or yabanci (foreigner) she doesn’t really mind. I often think of Istanbul as a wonderful muse with a mean right hook. But if you continue to love her, and treat her like the empress she is, she might just grant you her favor. Thanks to plenty of love the Empress is becoming an international city again, as she was in Ottoman times. She’s attracting talent from within and from without. That’s why last night I was fantastically pleased to see my friend Fleur and her group Odylle take the stage at Ghetto to celebrate the release of their debut album, Istanbul Bana Ne Yaptin? (what did you do to me?). DON’T LOOK BACK. YOU’VE JUST STARTED. Fleur O. Van Wijck came to Istanbul to do her masters…

  • People,  Places

    The Magic of Turks

    One of the things I vowed never to do on this blog was a rant. While I believe in an open and democratic internet, despite some of the dangers and pitfalls attached, I also feel there is far too much anger and hatred being voiced. That’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about something that’s really touches me powerfully and positively on a daily basis. I don’t have to live in Turkey. I choose to. A large part of the reason I stay is the magic of this place. Yes, there are many difficulties in this land, and life is incredibly hard for a considerable portion of the population. Still, I count myself lucky to be here. That’s largely because of the mix of people who surround me, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, Turkish, Turkish-Kurdish, Turkish-Armenian, Turkish-Greek …  I could go on, but you get the…

  • People

    Profile: Selin Barlas, Historian and TV Host.

    History is a subject important to us all, whether it’s personal or national. For Selin Barlas it’s both. In addition to her scholarly work she voices Bemaddy children’s stories for iPad, and every Saturday night with Murat Bardakçi and Erhan Afyoncu, c0-hosts Haber Türk’s Tarihin Arka Odasi (History’s Back Room). Like Istanbul, Selin is a woman with a Western and Eastern sides, her father is Turkish and her mother is American. When it comes to Istanbul, Turkey and history in general, there’s no other place to be. I got a chance to sit down with her recently and discuss her work, and understand why history is so personal and so passionate a subject for her. How did you come to be a co-host of Tarihin Arka Odasi? SELIN BARLAS: My predecessor and friend, Pelin Batu, decided to leave the show and suggested me to Murat Bardakçi. Like her I also went to Bogaziçi which…

  • Mind / Body,  People,  Uncategorized

    Woodcutters & Management.

     THE AXE MAN. I want to take this opportunity to thank God … or the universe. Whoever or whatever is in charge seems to have brought the sun back after what felt like an interminable season of grey. Yesterday, to pay tribute to this momentous event, I decided that I would go out and look for color, specifically, pairings of yellow and blue. At the moment, I am really enjoying the interplay between these two primary partners — red is such a prima donna don’t you think, always blazing away, snatching center stage? Sorry, I digress. Something else happened. While I was out shooting stuff. I heard a cry. No, it was not spring. It was a group of woodcutters. They wanted their photos taken. One of the things I love about Turkey is that the working classes are only too happy to jump in front of the camera.  SOME HARD-SLOGGING GENTS REVEALING…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People,  Places

    The sounds, colours and vibrations of the universe.

    PROMOTING OPEN AIR WAVES AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. I recently had a chance to take a peek inside the Harbiye studios from which Istanbul’s AÇIK (Open) Radyo 94.9 is broadcast. On the airwaves since 1995, the station will soon move to a new home in Tophane. It was Simon Johnson, editor-in-chief of That Magazine, and co-host of Saturday night’s 10 pm world music program, who suggested I take a look behind the scenes. COFFEE AND TEA AVAILABLE BASED ON THE HONOR SYSTEM. AÇIK’s studios are quite a contrast compared to those I’m used to. Its studio glass is yellowed and hazed with cigarette (ahem) smoke, empty beer bottles have been left atop consoles, there are torn walls, desks missing drawers, and just about every square inch of wall, glass or air duct is stuck with decals, making it feel more like the basement of a high school friend even five floors up. But then…

  • People,  Places

    Sofia’s Minibus Magic

    PROVING IT’S THE JOURNEY AND NOT THE DESTINATION LIKE NOTHING ELSE: THE MINIBUS. At the risk of sounding like some elitist, snobbish expat with delusions of grandeur, I have a confession to make: I don’t think Istanbul’s minibuses are the most stately mode of transport. No offense intended, this is just an observation. One of my earliest recollections involves veering in and out of traffic while the driver, mobile phone propped between shoulder and ear, cigarette clenched in teeth, drove and sorted change. Now that’s multitasking. On another trip, quite recently, the driver requested that all standing passengers crouch or squeeze three to a seat as the police were right behind him and he didn’t want to be fined for being overcapacity. THE FRONT SEAT: THE MOST COMFORTABLE, REMEMBERING THAT COMFORT IS RELATIVE. Not having a car (or wanting one) at my disposal, and being a firm believer in public…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Emel Kurhan’s Inspiration

    FORMER FASHION DESIGNER & NEW ARTISTIC VOICE EMEL KURHAN. Long before I had a chance to sit down and chat with the former fashion designer turned artist, I certainly noticed her stand-out presence. It’s not just for the obvious reasons, her cool clothes and her looks, but for her personal style—her manners and her ready laughter, her whimsy. Emel Kurhan always seemed to me like someone who knows how to make life enjoyable through the gift of an active imagination. Making life better through creativity is a theme this site is devoted to exploring, and one of the things that’s refreshing is that Emel takes her work — but not herself — seriously. Which is really important, as well as healthy, when your work comes from such a personal place.  MY PERSONAL FAVORITE FROM EMEL’S PREVIOUS EXHIBITION TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING. Her previous exhibition, Traveling Without Moving used mixed media such as neon,…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Sema Topaloglu: creating the artifacts of tomorrow?

    THE SIGNATURE MOTIF OF A FANTASTIC TALENT. Dear Mayor of Istanbul, I’d like to sincerely thank you and the city for the ongoing work you’re doing upgrading public transportation. I’ve lived here just over six years now, and I’ve seen a vast improvement and many positive changes. Automobile traffic its resulting pollution is a huge problem, and the more you do to unclog the streets and clean up the air, the better. In addition, you’ve made it possible for me to go from Taksim Square to my home in Yeniköy in under 40 minutes, mostly thanks to the underground. This means that rather than sitting in traffic with horns blaring and inching along at a snail’s pace, I can instead be home and spend valuable time with my daughter. This makes a huge difference to my quality of life, and I trust, hers. That’s why I don’t want to sound…

  • Mind / Body,  People

    The power of the rose.

    JAYDA URAS SPECIALIZES IN TINCTURES, TEAS AND INDIVIDUALIZED TREATMENTS. Jayda Uras, owner and operator of Vie En Rose creates fully organic treatments with locally sourced ingredients produced just outside Yalova, believing that anything you put on your body should be just as pure as anything you put in it. When conventional medicine failed to provide adequate answers in her own life, she chose a different course. I sat down with her the other day to discuss her alternative brand of medicine and where her inspiration came from. ORGANIC HANDMADE SOAP.