The First Turkish Cartoonist: Ali Fuad Bey

“English humour is hard to appreciate, though, unless you are trained to it. The English papers, in reporting my speeches, always put ‘laughter’ in the wrong place.” With this quote, famous English writer Mark Twain, expresses his scepticism towards English humour. Still, I believe that he was very happy when he witnessed the birth of […]

“English humour is hard to appreciate, though, unless you are trained to it. The English papers, in reporting my speeches, always put ‘laughter’ in the wrong place.” With this quote, famous English writer Mark Twain, expresses his scepticism towards English humour. Still, I believe that he was very happy when he witnessed the birth of comic all over the world. I mean, he is Mark Twain, who is famous for writing satire, and the person who said: “humour is mankind’s greatest blessing”. Bang on! Who can deny what he says? The humour has always been an inseparable part of human culture. Even in antiquity there were professional joke books, and there was Democritus, who is known as the “laughing philosopher”. Artists of middle Ages or Renaissance were well acquainted with comic arts. Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Agostino Carracci and Giovanni Bernini drew caricatures. Even Honore Daumier was in prison for a while due to his anti- monarchist caricatures. These caricatures reached their full potential after portrait-caricature was invented during the late 16th century. In spite of that,  the beginning of caricature is marked by the cartoon-historians with the work of John Leech which was published in Punch magazine on 15 July 1843.

Diyojen Magazine Cover
Diyojen Magazine Cover

Starting from the mid-1800s the caricature magazines started to be published in the world and this trend evidently made its way to the Ottoman Empire. The first caricature was published in the by Arif Arifaki in 1867, and the first humour magazine was “Diyojen” which was founded by Teodor Kasap in 1869. Despite publishing a few caricatures, “Diyojen” was truly a milestone in caricature history as it was an inspiration for everyone that followed. The development of the caricature in Turkey continued with the establishment of a number of humour magazines, and among them “Çaylak” magazine was most important as it was sort of a school for young talent artists of the period and moreover it was the first humour magazine published in the Ottoman Empire by a Turk.

The time when the humour magazines mushroomed in Istanbul, Sultan Abdul Hamid II ascended the Ottoman throne with the promise of parliamentary government. Indeed, the sultan kept his word, however the 1st parliamentary period lasted only 93 days. Immediately afterward a despotic rule started to prevail which lasted more than 30 years until he was deposed in 1909 following the events related to 1908 Young Turk Revolution. During that time there was no way to print a humour magazine within the empire and consequently Turkish humour magazines transported to Europe, especially to France and Britain, where they continued to exist. Together with the declaration of the Second Constitutionalism in 1908, the censorship on humour magazines was abolished, and furthermore the press was granted limitless freedom. This gave green light to the artists who escaped to Europe. They returned back to their homes and established large numbers of humour magazines in Istanbul. Among all the papers that were established at that time “Karagoz”, which was founded by Ali Fuad Bey in 1908, was the longest lasting one.

Caricature of Ali Fuad Bey
Caricature of Ali Fuad Bey

Ali Fuad Bey, the founder of Karagoz newspaper, is regarded as the first Turkish caricaturist. Despite that there’s almost no information about his life, even in the works of Reşat Ekram Koçu, who is known for the famous Istanbul Encyclopedia, and in Sicil- Osmani, the Ottoman national biography. What we know about his life today comes from a few journalists and the memories of Ahmet Rasim, the famous Turkish writer and a close friend to Ali Fuad Bey.

Ali Fuad Bey starts his career as a journalist in a newspaper called “Basiret” in 1869, and later on he was the manager of Ottoman naval printing house. His first caricature was published in “Letaif-I Asar” newspaper in 1874. The following years he continued to publish his drawings in many important humouristic papers,  of which“Caylak” was the most important. It was at “Caylak” where he spent his most fertile period and improved his skills a lot.. Çaylak magazine usually attacked and criticised Sultan Abdul Hamid II, especially during the Russo-Turkish War 1877-78. During the way Ali Fuad Bey fled to Europe, as did his colleagues, due to the sultan’s prohibition of humouristic magazines. He returned back to Istanbul following the deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, and launched a new magazine called “Karagöz”, meaning black eye in Ottoman-Turkish, and referring to one of two lead characters of the traditional Ottoman shadow play called “Hacivat and Karagöz”.  The reason why he chose Karagoz instead of Hacivat had meaning. The character Karagöz in this shadow play is best known for his sharp tongue and social commentary which even criticised the Ottoman sultan.

On 10 August 1908 the first issue of Karagöz was published with a slogan of “Illustrated amusement gazette, for now published on Mondays and Thursdays”. Ali Fuad Bey took on a task of illustrations meanwhile Mahmud Nedim was the author, writing the dialogues underneath the illustrations. The paper consisted of four pages, the first of which was left for the dialogues of Karagöz and Hacivat. The paper used very clear language in combination with the cartoon satire which helped everybody  understand the political, social, economic and cultural events of the period of 1908-1918.

From the beginning of the Turkish Independence War Karagöz took sides on the Ankara government, the nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal. After the war resulted with the victory of the nationalists, Karagöz paper was taken as a vehicle to realise the nationalist ideal. During this period the new government practices were positively imposed upon the public. After one of the new practices of Turkish government,  replacing the Arabic script with the Latin alphabet in 1928, Karagöz paper lost many of its readers, and it was sold to the Republican Peoples Party. From that point on, it continued to be published under the editorship of Sedat Simavi, who is a legendary figure in Turkish media history and best known for the Hürriyet newspaper. After Democratic Party won the 1950 elections, which ended the one party period in Turkey, Karagöz lost its effectiveness completely, and finally the last issue of the paper was published in 1955.

“The Republic is Walking!” Karagöz / 9 January 1924.
“The Republic is Walking!” Karagöz / 9 January 1924.

What really makes Karagöz very special is that among all the papers which were established within the same period Ali Fuad Bey’s Karagöz was the only one which witnessed the Second Constitutionalism period, the World War I, the Turkish Independence War, the foundation of the Turkish Republic, one party period as well as the first five years of the real democracy in Turkey. During its publication life of 47 years, there were more than 4000 issues that were published. In this way this paper is the first degree historical source together with a chronological order!!!

By the way don’t get confused! Ali Fuad Bey had no chance to witness all the events that Karagoz published about as an eye-witness. On the other hand his date of death is as polemical as his date of birth. According to Orhan Koloğlu Ali Fuad Bey died during the 1920s on the other hand many number of researcher agreed that he died on 27 August of 1919.



Ilker Yaman

Ilker Yaman is a story teller, story writer, and a relentless researcher, with great interest to be a turnsole test for booksy pimps

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