Dalgın Sular brings life to graphic novel
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Dalgın Sular is Turkey’s first collective comic book or graphic novel project, written by tens of different people.“In the beginning was the darkness.” So is the tag line greeting the reader from the covers of the first three issues of the unconventional comic book, Dalgın Sular. The name who brought his fantasy project to life, writer and poet İskender Savaşır, had tweeted in late May that they had translated Dalgın Sular as “Moody Waters,” but were open to other translations.
Inspired by one of the poems of early 20th century Turkish poet and writer, Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, “Dalgın Sular” translates as “pondering” or “wistful waters.” The waters here are of Istanbul, pondering or wistful over its dark history that is coming to life today.
Dalgın Sular is Turkey’s first collective comic book or graphic novel project, written by tens of different people, and contributions provided by hundreds. The original idea was Savaşır’s, Dalgın Sular’s Project Coordinator, to establish a communication and rehabilitation platform for traumatized children and young people, using comic books as a vehicle.
“Dalgın Sular could be called the coming to life of İskender Savaşır’s dreams throughout the years,” Ayşe Çavdar, a journalist and Dalgın Sular’s editor-in-chief, told the Hürriyet Daily News. “A story resurrecting the past, a process of rehabilitation through the telling of imaginary stories, and finally a Turkish graphic novel.”
The project eventually turned into something altogether different, moving in a new direction with each new participant, shaped by many working together or separately for the same purpose as it goes along. As renowned academic and columnist Murat Belge wrote in the foreword for the first issue, it is a “work-in-progress.”
Resurrecting the past
“It wouldn’t be exactly true to say Dalgın Sular was planned, but it rather embarked on a journey,” said Çavdar. “We don’t even have a regular period for the comic books. The idea is to become a weekly comic book. However we would call it a success if it is published monthly. It is not really important.” For Çavdar, what is important is, “to be able to tell this story of resurrection of the past while reflecting on today’s traumas.”
While “resurrection” here is used broadly, it also carries its literal meaning in the story. The story begins presumably in the 1980s, when the fabric of time was torn by the machinery cleaning the Golden Horn, the natural harbor inside the Bosphorus that has been home to many civilizations throughout history. At this time, the dead come to life and start roaming the streets of Istanbul.
It may sound like an exotic zombie story to scare your wits off. But there is something completely different here that respects life and death, an urgency to grant closure and completion to lives half-lived, cut off or sacrificed by the system, by society. The disparate stories are loosely connected with characters like the Night Queen and Seven Sleepers. The premise is to resurrect the past through resurrecting the dead.
“Personally, I have never seen the past through such a lens,” said Çavdar. “Now, we are collectively able to resurrect different versions of the past, and put it under today’s microscope. I am well aware that it is not solid or definite, but it would suffice for me if Dalgın Sular was able to cloud some of our mental clarities regarding the past.”
How is the creation of Dalgın Sular a collective process? How does it work? “It is a modular structure,” said Çavdar. “Anyone who is interested in telling a story or in drawing can join us and become part of Dalgın Sular. Sometimes we approach people who we believe would like to tell stories with us. People just come, join us, and start telling stories or drawing. Sometimes we are invited to places to work collectively. And we realize that we are even more crowded when we leave. Everyone is free to choose their own path to become part of Dalgın Sular.”
‘Everywhere Dalgın Sular, everywhere utopia’
It’s a free-flowing process, where new models are always welcome. If it fits, it fits. If it doesn’t, so be it. “We are trying to tell our story with all the creative outlets possible,” said Çavdar. “That’s why we have an elaborately eclectic production process. We are nothing and everything. The story is quite unpredictable. Nobody knows within the group dynamics who will lead the story, or to what direction. The methods of expression are unpredictable as well. From the very beginning, we have seen cacophony not as a place to avoid, on the contrary, as a place of our own.”
The initial idea of working with children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is turning into an unpredictable process as well. While some of the initial plans to work with Turkey’s Social Services and Child Protection Agency are shelved for the time being, they have worked with children in Istanbul’s Metris prison, young people from Sefaköy Bir Umut Association, and children from Istanbul’s Ayazma neighborhood, whose houses were recently knocked down for one of Istanbul’s mega-resettlement projects.
There are historians, journalists, writers, artists, musicians, teachers, students, tailors, night guards, bankers, entrepreneurs, workers, and the unemployed among the tens of people reimagining Istanbul for Dalgın Sular.
According to Çavdar, the word “disadvantaged” has also lost its meaning in recent months. “Let’s not use the word ‘disadvantaged.’ As we have seen in the last couple of months, there isn’t any generation or group that have not somehow been traumatized,” said Çavdar. “We are all living the disadvantages of living in this country. Instead of labeling people according to who they are and where they have come from, we try to heal each other’s wounds through the communication we create when we tell stories.”
Will Dalgın Sular continue to be just an Istanbul story? Not really. “Next stop is Adapazarı, then probably İzmir. There will be quite interesting things, surprises to look forward to,” said Çavdar.
Çavdar hinted at the future of the project by referencing the popular chant of the Gezi protesters recently, “Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance.” “Let me put it this way,” she said. “Everywhere Dalgın Sular, everywhere utopia.”