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