Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

No chirayliq guys this time (except off camera) - but this is what we ate for our new year's dinner:

Monday, 22 December 2008

Portrait of Gökhan, Istanbul, 2008

A recent comment reminded me of this lovely portrait by a great photographer.

I have previously briefly mentioned the photographer istanbulmike's project Face of Tomorrow. Of course, he doesn't only make portraits of people for that project.

Here is his friend Gökhan, a Kurdish man living in Istanbul, taken during a chance encounter in the street.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

In Rigul, south eastern Tibet

Originally uploaded by francoish

Our reader Bruno drected our attention towards this small community in a remote part of Tibet. Rigul is situated on an altitude of 3,900 meters. 150-200 people live in the area, as well as 130 monks at the local monastery and shedra (religious school). The people in Rigul raise yaks and grow barley, potato and some other vegetables.

Originally uploaded by francoish

After the Chinese invasion in 1950, most of the teachers and monks of Rigul went into exile or were killed or imprisoned. The remaining villagers were able to prevent the Chinese from destroying the monastery, and they hid a number of relics, religious paintings and statues. Since the 1990's, efforts have been made to restore the monastery and shedra, and in 2005, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist Master of the Kagyu Order, returned to the village he had been forced to leave when he was five years old.
Ani Choden, a young nun and relative of Ringu Tulku, started a health clinic in 2001. A lay school for the local children has also been built recently, and besides education it also provides two free meals a day, which is a big help since the children often have to walk over one hour to get to the school.

The clinic and the lay school are all for the most part funded by sponsors from abroad. You too can help! Visit to find out more about the projects.

Originally uploaded by francoish

The wonderful photos in this post were made by Francois H., an air traffic controller from Brussels (francoish on Flickr), who is active in supporting the Rigul community and a student of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.

Originally uploaded by francoish

Originally uploaded by francoish

Originally uploaded by francoish

Originally uploaded by francoish

Originally uploaded by francoish

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


navychod, originally uploaded by dr.pusca.

Yours truly is featured on the cover (the small picture; not the Kyrgyz lady!) and inside the Prague-based magazine Navýchod, a cultural and political periodical on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Interviewed by friendly and intrepid journalist Jan Kravcik, I talk about the Chirayliq project as well as the history of Tatars in Finland and my own comics. It is fun to see one's own words in print, especially in Czech translation!

The Navýchod website is worth a visit; including articles about Georgian toasting traditions, Jan's article about Sabantui celebrations in the Czech Republic, and photo reports from Central Asian countries.

By the way, the cover is by the Polish designer Dr. Pusca.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Aidar Sunday 2!

Last time, Aidar Galimov, the multiawarded pop singer of Tatarstan and Bashkiria, sang about his childhood and youth, the beginnings of his career. In this song - Kezge jillar - the subject is melancholy love. Ah, those Tatars.

If that isn't enough, I have to post this video for the song Kun men ay by Berkut. There's footage from a Kazakh film in this video, but I can't remember what its name is. Can anybody help me?

Of course, the subject is (again) love. "You are my sun and my moon" - kun men ay. Those Kazakhs!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Kublai Khan

A Mongolian rock ballad to the memory of emperor Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Would not be complete without a smoke machine, the morin khuur (the horsehead violin) and khöömii (overtone singing). I love Mongolia.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Turkish Soldiers in Korea

Google provides a huge amount of professional photography from the archives of LIFE Magazine for free. Many of the photos have never been published before. There are some incredible treasures there, colour photography from the early 20th century, intimate portraits, fascinating documents by great masters, all searchable - like these photographs of the Turkish brigade in the Korean War 1950-1953 by Carl Mydans.


Traditional dancing


Pretty girls from home (love the 1950's style!)

Warrior haircut

Tattoo collection

Altaic roots? Turkish soldier and old Korean man

Snow Wash

A mysterious pet - is it a puppy or...?...

There is always time for a Turkish wrestling bout

What did they do in Korea? Here's an excellent article (and cute comments). Most of the soldiers were recruited in the eastern part of Turkey, from little villages in the mountains. Many of them left their homestead for the first time in their lives, when Turkey (which had been neutral in World War 2) decided to show support for the Western powers and join the UN forces in Korea. They had to endure more than almost arctic weather conditions, difficult terrain, a relentless enemy, communication problems with the English-speaking command and cultural shocks:
"The Turks favored a heavy, substantial bread containing non-bleached flour along with thick, strong, heavily sweetened coffee." If the rumours about American bleached toast and dishwater are true, poor Turkish tummies!

Seriously, the Turks made an enduring impression on their Allies, first with their exotic appearance, later with their battle prowess:
"The Turkish soldiers’ fierce appearance, flowing mustaches and great knives were a war correspondent’s dream come true."
There were some blood-curdling stories about them: "Certain Turkish patrols always reported high body counts when they returned from patrols. Headquarters always scoffed at the high numbers, much higher in fact than any other unit, until the Turks decided to bring the enemy bodies back and dump them at headquarters for the body count."
It was also reported: "They really prefer to be on the offensive and handle it quite well [...] They are not as good at defensive positions, and certainly never retreat."

The 1st Turkish brigade suffered heavy losses in the war, and the participation drew criticism in Turkey of political reasons. However - nobody questioned the fact that the soldiers and their officers did the best they could under extremely difficult circumstances.

From a previous article on the history of the Tatars in Japan, we know that the Japanese Tatars, most pre-war stateless refugees from the USSR, received the opportunity to apply for Turkish citizenship due to their efforts on behalf of Turkish wounded during the Korean War.

I just have to take the liberty and include a portrait of the American photographer himself. I won't guess what Carl Mydans' ethnic background was, but he was too cute to miss :D

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Back to school Monday!

Somehow Ainur found the website of the Yozgat Anadolu Technical and Vocational High School. We absolutely must share some photos of the teachers that have been working at this school.

With the school's profile, the largest number of teachers seems to be in Machine Building. Either that, or Machine Building has the most handsome teachers. In any case I saved the most Machine Building teachers on my hard drive:

Hasan Kilavuzoğlu (who taught at the school in 1980-1985)

Hayri Çalişkan (1979-1995)

Orhan Doğandil (1968-1971)

Ahmer Uçan (1967-1968)

Nevzar Birol (1959-1964)

Ainur thinks Mr. Vahap Aydal (1956-1959) looks like a werewolf.

Mr. M.Kemal Kutlu (1950-1952) with his hairdo and moustache reminds me of my high school classmate Wassim, whose father for the first time got me really interested in and shocked at what was happening in Palestine. (Wassim means 'handsome'.)

Vahit Hindioğlu (1948-1949)

Here are Mr. Oğuz Bozdoğan and Mr. Cevdet Ekmekcioğlu who taught Metal Works in 1977-1980 and 1972-1974:

... But I think my favourite subject would have been Maths with Mr. Ziya Yeşilbursa in 1976-1978:

See more teachers from the Yozgat Anadolu Technical and Vocational High School!

Aidar Sunday!

Aidar Galimov (Айдар Галимов) is a Tatar pop singer, born in Kazakhstan and educated in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. He has received numerous awards in both republics, such as the official Tatar song festival Tatar zhyry in Kazan. This video for the song Bähet bit ul (Бэхет бит ул) is an autobiographical account of his rise to fame. I especially like little Aidar with the accordion, and young Aidar as a paratrooper.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Faux Chirayliqs #1: George Raft

We have had an off-blog discussion about fake chirayliqs some time. Hollywood has a long tradition of casting white people in crappy makeup as "Asians", which is very annoying for anyone who likes handsome Asian men, and very demeaning to the excellent Asian actors who have been struggling for decent roles throughout cinema history. This phenomenon is often referred to as "yellowface".
I'm a huge George Raft fan, so I was surprised to discover this "yellowface" performance from the 1934 film Limehouse Blues. I haven't seen the movie in its entirety, but here is a summary from IMDB:
Fresh from Chinatown in New York, Harry Young [Raft] has taken over the illegal import business in the seamy Limehouse district of London, where he cold-bloodedly disposes of rivals and runs a smoky nightclub. He falls for a low-class, white pickpocket [Jean Parker], diminishing his pride in the Chinese half of his heritage and sparking the jealousy of the nightclub's moody star performer [Anna May Wong].
One, if not THE reason for "yellowface", was that romantic and/or sexual relations between whites and non-whites were seen as immoral (and were also illegal in many states). In the infancy of Hollywood, this hadn't been enforced very strictly - Japanese-American star Sessue Hayakawa could play suggestive scenes with white actresses until the mid-twenties (though he never "got the girl" in the end). We're still suffering from the consequences of discrimination - can you think of one movie, Hollywood or not, where an Asian man has had successful romantic relationship with a non-Asian woman? Or a relationship at all? (French movies don't count!)

A reviewer notes that Raft didn't need much makeup to pull off a "half-and-half"-looking character - you be the judge.

Raft's parents were German immigrants in New York. He started his career as a professional dancer, but he often played vaguely ethnic gangsters. Apparently there was something in his looks that made him "foreign" enough to play different nationalities, as well as criminals. Coincidence? Check out groundbreaking criminologist Cesare Lombroso's physiognomy of criminals. All the physical traits that were argued to be typical of criminals, were also aberrations from the Eurocentric beauty standards of the time. Both in popular culture and "scientific" racism, non-white people were pushed out of normality, while people on the margins - whites who weren't quite "white" enough - led a precarious existence, sometimes having to prove their normality (=whiteness) by dressing up as the racial Other. Think about the Jazz Singer, a son of Jewish immigrants, proving his American identity by painting his face black and acting out a grotesque caricature of African-American entertainment (never mind that it was meant to honour it).
George Raft clearly didn't care much either way; he enjoyed a gangster lifestyle both on and off screen, and wasn't trying to prove his "whiteness". He didn't have to, he was on the safe side of the fence. Many popular "yellowface" actors were immigrants; interestingly, many were Scandinavians. Nils Asther, Warner Oland, Max von Sydow... Why would the blondest people in Europe make the most convincing "yellowface" actors? Or was there another reason?
If you want to know more, I'll continue this series of "Faux Chirayliqs".

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ramazan "The Punisher" Ramazanov

(Photo from

Ramazan Ramazanov is the current Muay Thai (Thai boxing) world champion in Heavyweight. He was born in Makhachkala, Dagestan, on June 22 1984. He started boxing when he was 13, and fell in love with Muay Thai when he was 15. In 2005 he moved to Thailand to pursue his career in the sport, and settled in Bangkok at the Rompo gym. Within a few years he moved up from the Super Middleweight to Super Cruiserweight division. After a lot of training and some spectacular achievements, he is currently ranked as the No. 1 Muay Thai Heavyweight in the world.

(Photo by Tytus Iskhandar)

Ramazan's official website (with his blog, bio and some videos - partly under construction)
His profile at (with some photos)
The gallery at has some photos with Ramazan, and he also has a profile in the "fighters" section.

Finally, here is a little interview and a sparring session with Ramazan for TheWebShow in Australia:

Monday, 17 November 2008

Found in Finland

The Finnish board of museums (Museovirasto) has an interesting internet exhibition of "A Thousand Unknown People" (Tuhat Tuntematonta) on old photographs. Among these photographs of ordinary and not-so-ordinary Finns through the ages (and their pets) are a few chirayliqs, too.

Tadao Watanabe is one of the "unknowns" who has been identified by attentive visitors. He was a Lutheran missionary who married a Finn, Siiri Pitkänen. I have written about them earlier.

This couple has not been identified, but we know that they are Tatars. The photo was dedicated to "Mrs Aishä Ishakova from Höseyin Abudarov" in March 21, 1913.
So, what did the Finns look like 100-80 years ago? Any blond and blue-eyed chirayliq candidates?

This gentleman looks strikingly similar to the Tatar man above.

I always find that Finns look Scandinavian, but a special kind of Scandinavian, if you know what I mean.

This guy looks like Andy from my comic Goldenbird. After a bourgeois makeover, to be sure.

Finns and Russians just happen to be neighbours, they have nothing else in common... Just coincidence upon coincidence... Let's not jump to conclusions...

Soldier boys trying to look tough. Same as everywhere...

But I think these guys, who were working for the national railways, are my favourites.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Cute Hazara singer

Netania sent this in:

The Hazara people are one of the many ethnic groups in Afghanistan. There are many theories about their origin, and they are probably very mixed, like many other peoples in the region. Genetically and culturally they are with certainty related to Persians, Mongolians and Uighurs. The Hazaras and Pashtuns (the ethnic majority of Afghanistan) have a long history of enmity, but I hope they can overcome it and work together to build a new Afghanistan.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Krasnoyarsk freestyle street football player

I don't know who this guy is, but in any case he is cute.

The photos are made by Kirill Tryaskin, a freelance photographer in Krasnoyarsk. See more of his nice photos.