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Dr. Salih Memecan
Finding Humor In "The Wild Western" of Turkish Politics

Once a shy child who stuttered, Dr. Salih Memecan, Gr'83, found in cartooning a less intimidating form of expression -- and a career.
   "I was the kid in the class who couldn't talk, but who drew nice pictures," recalls the creator of Bizimcity and Sizinkiler, cartoons that appear daily on the front and back pages of Turkey's leading national newspaper, Sabah, and in other publications.
Photo of Salih Memecan

   Memecan was so introverted, in fact, that as a foreign-exchange student at a California high school, he waited until just before a term paper was due before asking a classmate to explain the assignment. He drew 10 cartoons about his perceptions of the American political system and got an A for his hasty effort.
   He came back to the United States on a Fulbright grant to earn his Ph.D. in architecture at Penn, and during this time, sold cartoons to newspapers like The Washington Post. Returning to Turkey, Memecan found few job prospects in architecture and decided to become a cartoonist. "That was a tough decision at the time, because cartooning wasn't taken very seriously, especially by my father-in-law. Then, after my cartoons became popular, he was very proud of me."
   Memecan launched Sizinkiler in 1991 and Bizimcity a year later. Sizinkiler covers the nearly universal territory of childhood pranks and spats between spouses through the lives of a family of fowls. Its characters emblazon a wide range of products sold in Turkey, from beach towels to curtains.
   Bizimcity, meaning "our city," takes a wry look at Turkey's mercurial politics. In the cartoon, Memecan explains, "Turkey is like a Wild Western city, and things are treated in that way." The prime minister, for instance, is depicted as a sheriff (in the cartoon, he wears a star-shaped badge on his red vest), and the top hat-clad mayor of Bizimcity is really Turkey's president.

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