Can Yalcinkaya writes for Bleeding Cool:
#ResistComics is an anthology of comics, illustrations and articles on the Occupy Gezi resistance in Turkey. It has been inspired by the subversive creativity of the resistance, and the recent surge in comics with political themes.
When I was fourteen, I was a self-proclaimed poet, communist, metalhead and occultist.
Out of all these identities, the one I was least dedicated to was my political one. I attended occasional meetings, tried to read a few books about Marxism, received a headbutt on my nose from a right-wing bully (it wasn’t worse than the injuries I received at a metal gig the week before). But these were things I largely participated in because it’s what the cool kids did. Over the years, I grew out of headbanging, symbolist poetry and magick (although, I should have probably held onto that last one. I hear it’s good for a career in comics), but political thinking stayed with me, for the most part as an on-and-off relationship.
Oh, I didn’t mention I grew up in Turkey. I’m part of a generation that has often been accused of apoliticism. I was born in the aftermath of the third military coup in the country’s history in 1980, which led to the rise of the New Right in the vein of Reagan and Thatcher. Along came neoliberalism, free market economy and the ideal of globalization. As the army arrested, tortured and killed many left-wing youth to bring back “order”, my generation has been advised to stay away from politics by our parents.
I received my first education about justice and fairness from comics. We had a large diversity of translated comics from different countries: the US, Italy, France and Belgium among others. The Turkish comics I read were mostly in weekly humour magazines, which featured the working class underdog as the hero.
Some of the Turkish humour comics I read when I was fourteen were also accused of being apolitical, as they didn’t openly criticize politicians of the day. Instead, they depicted sex, bodily functions, drug use and violence, and were labeled degenerates. When I started an academic career in 2004, I focused my research on what made these particular comics political – what made any act and artistic expression ideologically charged.
In May 2013, one of the largest mass resistance movements Turkey has seen unfolded. The government wanted to demolish Gezi Park in Istanbul to build a mall, a type of building held at the highest esteem by those who rule us. A few peaceful protesters aimed to stop it, and were met by disproportionate use of brutal force by the police. This resulted in an uprising across the nation, and the summer of 2013 witnessed an ongoing battle between protesters and pro-government forces.
People on the streets were the generations who had previously been accused of apoliticisim. They used their wits, irreverence, and sense of humour to fight an oppressive regime, which wanted to have full control over their actions, thoughts, and bodies. They appropriated the language of those “apolitical” comics, internet memes, video games and other popular culture for political resistance, and it was brilliant!
Our political leaders still carried on the ideals of the New Right and Neoliberalism, thirty years on. They thought globalization was only about global business and free markets. But globalization have also been about the transnational spread of discontent among those that suffered under unjust regimes. The Gezi resistance resonated with the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, the uprisings in Europe, and South America and other parts of the world.
I’ve lived in Australia for the last seven years. I wasn’t in Turkey during the Gezi protests, although I desperately wanted to. After a couple of weeks of online activism, I decided to engage in something more creative. I was inspired by all the art the Gezi spirit instigated, and impressed by the work Occupy Comics produced.
A group of my writer friends and I organized online to discuss what we could to publish a comics anthology on the Gezi resistance. Soon we were joined by some of the most talented artists in Turkey and Australia. We were all in different parts of the world, but thanks to the power of the Internet, we have been able to put together a project that we are proud of. And we want to make this book a reality through your support.
It’s very clear to us that this world order which serves the interests of the 1% does not work. We see ourselves as part of a larger global movement. Early on in our project, we decided to translate it to as many languages as we can to make our voices heard louder. The stories and illustrations in our anthology won’t be inaccessible to anyone who believes in justice, freedom, equality, human rights, rights to the city, and a sustainable future.
We believe that the Gezi Resistance is partly about reclaiming our cities. Art is an important aspect of this movement, because cities aren’t just made of buildings and roads, streets and parks. They are also imagined places that exist in songs, films, books and comics. #ResistComics emerged as a project to reclaim our cities through works of imagination.
Here’s our Kickstarter link for further information and some sample pages:
Our project has fared well thus far, but we still need your support. If our project is successful, we will use the funds to pay our artists decent page rates and print out book.
This week marks the first anniversary of the Gezi Resistance. Many #ResistComics contributors are on the streets celebrating and remembering, but also taking action and making art for change. And that’s all the magick we need.
Can Yalcinkaya on twitter: http://twitter.com/ctyalcinkaya