Erdogan Karayel and Don Quichotte

How would you like to follow troubling world events through a monthly humor magazine where cartoonists of various ethnicities, religions and languages tilt at windmills?

The adventures of "Don Quichotte" started two years ago as a rnonthly humor magazine based in Stuttgart. Cartoonist Erdoðan Karayel, who moved to Germany five years ago, created the bilingual Don Quichotte with idea of introducing German humor to Turks in Germany and Turkish humor to Germans. "Don Quichotte is different from other cartoon magazines like Penguen or Girgir in Turkey," he say s. "It’s based on drawings and it aims for a universal appeal."
The first issue of Don Quichotte (DQ) came out as a gift to honor the respected cartoonist Oðuz Aral on the 55th anniversary of his art career. Karayel is among Aral’s first students. Though he learned under Aral’s wing, Karayel leaned t o vvar ds a line outside the dassical Girgir. He preferred cartoons vvithout the talking balloons; a universally understandable style was what appealed to him. "But then contests were the only platforms available for such a style/ he says. "We made money by doing what we thought was wrong, and won awards for what vve knew to be right."
Though two years old, the nominally monthly Don Quichotte so far has only 10 printed issues but has enough cartoons on its website to be a political daily humor magazine. Don Quichotte’s initial aim of introducing the humor of two communities to each another took on a very different form with the opportunities available through the Internet. Given cartoons’ universal style, it wasn’t limited to the boundaries of a single country.

Migrant cartoonists of the world, ünite!

Starting to reach the cartoonists around the world, Karayel thought, "Why can’t Don Quichotte be the magazine of ali migrant cartoonists, a platform that brings together the cartoonists who end up spending their lives in foreign countries?" For a while, Don Quichotte did become a platform of migrant cartoonists, yet it soon attained another distinguishing aspect. That is, to ünite cartoonists around the world on specific issues occupying the world stage. For instance in light of the recent Israeli military operations in Lebanon, the magazine’s website has been showing cartoons on war which will see print in the next issue.

Who is this Turk, anyway?

One of the previous features of DQ was entitled "Turkey-European Union/’ which came out when heated negotiations över Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership were underway. DQ received dose to 500 cartoons from över 30 countries on the subject. Karayel says that they stumbled on an interesting fact: "We saw that world cartoonists stili don’t know Turkey or know it only within a certain framework. Almost half the cartoons showed Turks wearing fezzes and dressed in Ottoman dothes. We didn’t simply say, ‘This isnt how Turks look’ and toss them aside. Our international jury gave half the awards to the cartoons where Turks look like Ottomans, because we decided that the issue needs be addressed. Either Turks aren’t able to present themselves properly, or we’re indeed like this and should no longer fool ourselves." From the Turkey-EU feature emerged DQ’s first exhibit that pointed to Turkey’s location in the current world through the eyes of international cartoonists. The exhibit visited a number of cities in Germany and several venues in istanbul.

Once upon a time in Nawlins

Don Quichotte’s next feature was on Hurricane Kat rina. With a cali made via the Internet, DQ got cartoons from around 30 countries and displayed these works in an exhibit called "Once Upon a Time in New Orleans." "Our aim is to of fer a social critique of the issue at hand," says Karayel. "Eighty percent of the cartoons we got criticized the Bush administration’s one-sided attitude towards the New Orleans residents, most of whom were African Americans with little or no financial means. These were cries in drawings depicting the discrimination and the fact that these people were abandoned to their fate."
Then Karayel asked world cartoonists for portraits of famed Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. "Cartoonists from 21 countries drew the Nazim whom they didn’t know; we gave only brief information on Hikmet on our website," he says. "Nazim figures by Uzbek and Afghan cartoonists are etched in my memory as they showed Nazim as one of their own, looking and dressing like them. A poet vvho on paper has no citizenship suddenly had dozens of homelands, and became a citizen of 21 countries." The exhibit of these cartoons opened at the Nazim Hikmet Culture Center on the anniversary of his death.
Besides the main features, the magazine has a "Humor in the World" series that introduces cartoonists and humor from different countries.

Cartoons aim to attack, not insult

DQ calls for cartoons on a specific subject every two or three months, which is about the time it takes to bring together world cartoonists around an issue such as the bird flu epidemic, which was also covered by the magazine. The next issue Don Quichotte tackled was again a subject that created violent reactions around the world, namely the Muhammed cartoons from Denmark. Karayel set up a specific platform to see the response of world cartoonists on the issue. "The cartoons we got showed that cartoonists believe that they can and should draw on every issue, that satire and criticism is the very aim of this art form. It aims to attack. Like a Don Quichotte, it should attack ali things wrong and ugly. However, the cartoonists reacted very negatively to the Muhammed drawings; they found the act to be wrong. These were recognized as an insult, disrespect to a whole society."
Some of the cartoonists even suggested, "Is it then okay to draw the Virgin Mary as a prostitute; could Jesus or Moses be insulted like this too?" Karayel says that the general sentiment of the cartoons reacting to the Danish ones was to leave these issues aside. "Perhaps Christian society is more tolerant, but the conservatism surrounding Jesus and Mary has been upheld to this day. Would they tolerate if the same was done to them?" The cartoons DQ received underlined that these depictions gave birth to further violence.

Seeking sponsors

Karayel describes Don Quichotte as a universal magazine opposed to ali conservatism. "We’re not a tool of any political ideology, instead we’re on the side only of the weak and the right," says Karayel and makes note of a problem they are struggling vvith. "Printing costs are very low, but it’s hard to find sponsors because people hesitate, thinking we may criticize them also." He also says that they had to dedine certain companies’ sponsorships because Don Quichotte refuses ali censorship.
As a professional who worked in advertising for 28 years, Karayel says that being a cartoonist is no way to make money. Yet being a Don Quichotte in the 2Ýst century is a costly endeavor that requires a bit of craziness. Karayel wanted to dedicate the third issue to Oðuz Aral and Necati Abaci, who passed away two days apart from one another. "Their lines had to be on the cover of that issue," he says. "So I sold my car that day and printed DQ, though I couldn’t qo to their funerals."
DQ is in contact with around 1,500 cartoonists worldwide. "Don Quichotte is unprecedented in this respect as well," Karayel says. "Our contributors don’t askfor copyright fees, not even for their exhibited works, which is a majör act of solidarity."
This shows their lack of greed and commitment to the world issues irrespective of borders, says Karayel. "The only compensation they really want is to be published where their lines can be seen and shared, which is a great pleasure. I have thousands of cartoons published but stili each time it’s in print I’m the first to get the issue in my hands."
When Don Quichotte manages to find sufficient sponsorship, the next step will be to introduce English to the now-bilingual magazine.

Cleaning the world with cartoons

By the end of the first week of the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, Karayel issued a cali for cartoons protesting the war. The online "No War" exhibit received around 500 cartoons from around the world. Karayel says that news of the show was covered by ali European editions of Turkish newspapers but there was no mention of it in Turkey. A selection of these cartoons was also exhibited on the streets of Ortaköy during the antiwar protest of shop owners and workers who dosed down their shops for an hour. Karayel expresses his surprise at the fact that again only a few papers covered this news.
Karayel says that Turkey is unfortunately not alone in insufficient coverage of antiwar protests in Europe. "Except for a few newspapers, the campaign of world cartoonists wasn’t covered by the German press either," he observes. "It seems unbelievable, but what is there not to believe? There’s a lot of profit to be made from the war business. The rockets raining down on women and children in Lebanon say ‘Made in Germany, France or Britain.’ The world is getting dirtier every day and vve the cartoonists want to dean it with our lines and drawings."

Daily humor magazine online

DQ has reached a mission and status that is quite different from its starting point. "Right now Don Quichotte is like an international online daily humor magazine," says Karayel. "Each month vve receive enough material to publish five magazines, but without more funding we can’t be in print regularly."
A graphic artist by profession, Karayel admits that working to produce Don Quichotte on his own, every day, is a great financial strain, yet says that the support it gets gives an incomparable pleasure. "The greatest cartoonists of the world, and cartoonist groups, tookpart in our antiwar campaign instead of starting another platform on other sites. Thus the movement multiplied; on my own I couldn’t have collected nearly 500 cartoons in just two weeks."

The magazine’s audience

Karayel says that 80 percent of their online visitors are cartoonists. "With a sponsor, we can print 2,000-2,500 copies and reach our audience, which is the intelligentsia of society." Initially Karayel thought of reaching the people on the street in Germany, which he describes as a country of migrants, but later gave up on that. "There’s no cartoon-reading habit in Germany, not like in Turkey," he says. "There are only a few humor magazines and these are very political." The understanding of humor in Germany is also very different, Karayel daims. "Germans have a saying, ‘Go to the pantry to laugh,’ which our initial slogan when starting this magazine played on. We said, ‘We’ll save you the trouble of going to the pantry’."

(www. donquichotte. org)