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Istanbul's Cihangir resists branded ‘bohemia'

Text and photography by Claudine Boeglin

Istanbul: portfolio #1

“Bastards are not orphans, but they are freed from models or possessions and reckon no top or bottom, no right or wrong.”
Basak Günak a.k.a Ah! Kosmos

Cihangir at the heart of Istanbul’s European side, is a time capsule of cool. A trembling reality suspended perplex in the aftermaths of a coup and the media crackdown that followed. Resisting the claws of global gentrification, the neighbourhood holds tight in its palm a momentum that could easily evanesce.

It recalls the genuine Marais of Paris in the 90s when craftsmanship had its ateliers of crystal lights and abat-jours [lampshades] or Hackney Road, London, before the Marketing Suites invasion. Or Berlin’s untamed beat where the master of boldness Ah! Kosmos exiled to release Bastards.

Welcome to Cihangir’s caravan of poets and intellectuals, antic shop keepers and global queer hipsters walking up and down its sinuous streets of joyful chaos. The enclave seems a refuse of political populism and its wet dreams of walls and mass manipulation.

Here is the Europes Europeans voted against. Here seats the Middle East kaleidoscope of complex and untameable identities. Here works twenty-three year old Furkan Çınar, a music producer who refuses to dry clean his tattoos. And Sina in her yellow dress and stylish gang who oppose the smoke and mirrors of Turkey today with incandescent butts and extreme nonchalance.

Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer and poet opened his Museum of Innocence in 2012 in Cihangir, as an echo to the eponymous novel: “When I moved there in the 90's, you could still see transvestites and sex workers out in the afternoons, doing their grocery shopping. Then, at the start of the 2000s, the character of Cihangir was suddenly transformed."

Real estate sparked the revolution of Taksim Square and real estate expends in the district of Beyoglu. To count the cranes climb on the rooftop of Hotel Corinne and its stunning 360 views; a backdrop for selfies.

Meanwhile local artists move to the Asian side of the Bosphorus where the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara interplay and the governmental restrictions are less felt. Alike everywhere else, bohemia is an elixir autocrats dream to poison and real estate magnates to brand.

© Dandy Vagabonds 2019