Angry Panda in Galata

Last week I had a nice walk around Galata for a couple of hours.

I have always loved that part of our city. When I was at school, I sometimes skipped classes and went there for a walk, dreaming about the past. Still doing it but this time there is no school to skip!

Anyway, I am one of those who have a kind of ‘’love and hate’’ relationship with Istanbul. I had moments when I strongly wished for leaving her and move to another place. But she, Istanbul, always knew how to convince me to stay here and not to leave her. I had my ups and downs in this bloody relationship. But here is my last word: I am staying here forever!

Well, I am writing this, because it was one of those spiritually bumpy days when I had my little walk in Galata, and came across with these guys, smoking their cigarette and painting, scribbling and enjoying the moment. Stopped there for some time to watch them at work. That was quite nice!

One of them told me this: Walk a little bit ahead and there you’ll see the Big Angry Panda. I knew the story of this modern figure but here is the the description from the official web page for those who are not familiar with it:

“Though quiet and shy by nature, Angry Panda creates noise through actions. For Angry Panda, apathy is not an option. Angry Panda is the embodiment of all forward-thinking doers, and doesn’t subscribe to any one doctrine or agenda. Everyone has their own Angry Panda – they just need to awaken the Angry Panda within themselves.”

So I walked up, towards to tower, and just around the corner, I saw it. There it was! With all its angry expression…

But why so angry? I think it’s because Angry Panda is against the destruction of our cities, is against the grinding capitalist order, supports all those who fight for the well-being of the society and is angry with all those who willingly comply with the fatal system.

I thought that was quite appropriate within the circumstances. Angry Panda was in the right place. Because Galata is in the center of the big changes where our collective memory is being erased with the excuse of renovation and restoration. This has happened in Beyoğlu, old Pera, and we’ve lost Emek Theatre, İnci Patisserie and one of the major landmarks of Pera, Anadolu Han of 19.century, has become a big, ugly shoe store! The so called Urban Transformation is destroying the cultural and historical texture of neighbourhoods, everything becomes either black or white. But Istanbul, and especially Galata has never been so! It has always kept its ‘’fifty or more shades of gray’’.

I felt my angry panda awakening inside me. I started to think what we, the individuals, could do to keep the memories of neighbourhoods, what could be our best contribution to it?

Think please with me and if you come up with an answer, find me!

Guest Contributor İlknur Akman Erk