Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Istanbul art madness

A cheeky piece by artist Daniele Sigalot at CI
Art-lovers in Istanbul were spoiled for choice this fall, with the annual art fair Contemporary Istanbul changing its usual place in the calendar to coincide with the Istanbul Biennial, and dozens upon dozens of museums, galleries and artist-run spaces opening new shows at the same time.

Trying to catch them all made for an exhausting but invigorating few weeks of exhibition-hopping, during which I wrote four pieces of arts coverage, for Lonely Planet and Selections magazine:
A fourth article, on the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Sakıp Sabanci Museum, will be published in the next print edition of Selections.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Paint's dance with water

“Your hand must be like a machine, with a nice, steady rhythm — not dropping the paint with too much or too little force,” says Bahar Kocabaş. “You have to be patient, but when the colors open up, it’s beautiful.”

That's how Kocabaş, an artist and teacher in Istanbul, described the art of paper marbling to me. Known in Turkish as ebru, the process has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity -- a list that Morning Calm, the inflight magazine for Korean Air, is featuring in a series of cover stories. I was asked to write the magazine's feature on ebru, which appeared on the cover of Morning Calm's July 2017 edition, and delved into controversies about the art's origins and the way both tradition and innovation are playing a role in keeping it alive.

You read my piece, "Water Colors," accompanied by lovely photos by John Wreford, in the online version of Morning Calm (requires a Flash-enabled browser).


Monday, May 29, 2017

A city and its food

Photo via Fare Magazine
The new magazine Fare, devoted to "exploring city culture through food, history, and community," chose Istanbul as the feature city for its inaugural issue, which was published this week. It's full of beautiful photography and design, and an eclectic selection of articles, including a piece by me on some of Istanbul's lesser-known sweet treats, such as the beyaz tatlı once beloved by the city's Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities and now, like the people who once ate it, largely swept away in a tide of cultural and culinary homogenization.

My piece, "Beyond Baklava," and a wealth of other stories, are available in Fare Issue 1: Istanbul, on sale at independent book and magazine stores and other locations in Turkey and Europe -- and available for shipping worldwide.

My story, "Beyond Baklava"

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Labor unions under pressure in Turkey

Six days a week for nine long months, Turkish road transport workers picketed outside three UPS transfer centres in Istanbul and İzmir, demanding the right to organise their workplaces. As more union members were dismissed from their jobs, the picket lines grew, holding firm even when riot police aggressively tried to break them up.

When UPS finally agreed to reinstate most of the fired workers, and eventually signed a collective bargaining agreement in late 2011, it was a shot in the arm for Turkey’s beleaguered labour unions.

“A lot of other unions visited us to find out how we did it,” says Kenan Özturk, the president of the All Transport Workers’ Union (TÜMTİS), which followed its success with UPS by signing an even stronger bargaining agreement with DHL.

But as political strife roils Turkey following a failed coup attempt last summer and ahead of a controversial referendum this Sunday 16 April, the union that provided a model for labour organising in tough times is enmeshed in a decade-long legal case that threatens to further erode the rights of all unions in the country.

Read the rest of my article, "TÜMTİS and the Case That 'Threatens All Trade Unions in Turkey'," on the website of Brussels-based news site Equal Times. (Also published in Spanish and French.)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Public workers protest job purges in Turkey

Selma Atabey had been working as a nurse in Turkey’s south-eastern province of Diyarbakır for 22 years when she was summarily dismissed from her job by government decree in late October. “I’ve had to sell my house and my car, I’ve lost my SGK [social security],” she says. “My son is getting ready for the high-school entrance exam and I’m afraid he won’t do well because of the stress we’re under.”


Atabey is just one of tens of thousands of public-sector employees removed from their posts in Turkey following a failed military coup in July, a series of on-going purges that the government says are necessary for the country’s security.

Many of the dismissed civil servants believe that they have instead been targeted for their union activity....

Since the failed 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, approximately 125,000 people employed by the government -- including teachers, healthcare workers, police officers, and lawyers -- have been dismissed from their posts. I interviewed some of these workers for Equal Times, a Brussels-based news site that also published the story in Spanish and and French.

Read the rest of my article, "'We Want Our Jobs Back': Turkish Workers Protest Post-Coup Purges," on Equal Times.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top spots in Kadıköy

Artsy, eclectic Istanbullus are flocking to the city’s once-sleepy Asian side and its lively cafes, galleries, bars, shops, and eateries. For visitors staying near the historic sights of Sultanahmet, a short and scenically stunning ferry ride across continents is all it takes to join them....

I've been contracted by Lonely Planet to help update their online coverage of Istanbul over the next few months, an assignment I kicked off by writing a short guide to Kadıköy, a neighborhood that seems more vibrant every time I hop across the Bosphorus to visit it.

Read the rest of my travel guide, "10 places to soak up the vibe of Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighbourhood," on the Lonely Planet website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Shaking up street food in Istanbul

Dürüm is the specialty at Basta Street Food Bar, but you won’t find a smoky grill inside this tiny Kadıköy storefront. With its bright turquoise counter, tile-patterned floor, and steel-topped, light-wood stools, Basta looks more like a hip café than a traditional kebab joint.

“One customer came in, sat at the counter, took one look at what we were doing in the kitchen and walked right out,” laughs Kaan Sakarya. The former chef of the highly rated Nicole restaurant in Istanbul, Sakarya opened Basta in April along with colleague Derin Arıbaş. Their aim: applying their fine-dining training to gourmet fast food – specifically dürüm, grilled meat wrapped up inside lavaş flatbread....

With Turkey's economic woes causing many establishments to shut their doors, it's always good news to hear about new places opening up, especially when their offerings are as satisfying as Basta's innovative dürum. I interviewed the restaurant's enthusiastic young chefs and left with a full stomach and a bit more optimism about Istanbul's future.

Read my the rest of my story, "Basta Street Food Bar: Gourmet to the People," on Culinary Backstreets.