Fatih Kucuk, chosen to the Sabanci Foundation’s Changemakers Programme, has been running cartooning workshops in Antalya’s Kas resort since 2016, and plans to set up another school in Cappadocia soon.
Turkey’s first cartoon school “The Cartoon Mill” teaches cartoon enthusiasts from all ages. Every year hundreds of children and youths learn how to produce cartoons.
The Cartoon Mill’s founder Fatih Kucuk was chosen as a Changemaker in the 11th season of Sabanci Foundation's Changemakers Program. He set up the first independent cartoon school in Turkey in Antalya’s Kas resort city in 2016.
The Cartoon Mill offers workshops on the history of cartoons, designing characters, and producing cartoons; participants learn how to create original cartoons with the characters they draw themselves.
Thanks to Fatih Kucuk’s individual efforts and an old building dedicated to the cause by the Kas Governorate, the school was established and continues to train students in storytelling and handicraft skills.
TRT World was able to reach Kucuk via email. “I was born in Kayseri’s snowy, cold, and disadvantaged Sariz municipality, and grew up in a fairytale atmosphere there. I had been drawing since I was a kid, and because I was interested in the arts I studied to be a teacher of visual arts at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun,” the 34 year-old Changemaker writes.
He says he went from village to village painting cartoons on school walls from 2013 to 2016. “The well-known cartoons I painted on the walls were usually not from Turkey but other countries’ productions. It saddened me to think there were no world famous characters from our country.”
Kucuk says he travelled while he was getting his master’s degree in Cinema and Television Studies to explore their cartoon methods. He went to countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia and studied the history of cartooning, and was upset that Turkey did not feature prominently in it.
“I thought: ‘I have to set up a cartoon school, we have to promote Turkey with cartoons featuring universal, ethical, cultural values, we should support those who want to work in this area,” Kucuk continues.
The Sabanci Foundation General Manager Nevgul Bilsel Safkan says that Kucuk set out to establish his dream with 5 TL ($ 0.70) in his pocket, and was not deterred by financial difficulties. “He starts the first cartoon school in Turkey, aiming to spread cartooning in Turkey, while allowing children to pick cartooning as an occupation, to create characters that are intrinsically Turkish,” she adds.
“Setting out with such a beautiful goal, Fatih beats the odds and establishes the cartoon school in Kas where nowadays international festivals are held and cartoon artists from around the world are hosted,” Safkan says.
The then district governor Bilgehan Bayer appointed a school in Kas that was not in use to Kucuk’s school, and Kucuk started off with volunteers, fundraisers and his own efforts. After the first year they made a project for TRT Cocuk (Turkish Radio and Television channel geared towards children) and were able to get funding.
They bought their own land, rebuilt the school and moved. They now have a dormitory that can house 20 children, a cartoon museum, a toy workshop and an education area.
“We have received tablets provided by participating schools through the [Republic of Turkey Ministry of National Education’s] Fatih Project,” Kucuk says, “but we still don’t have enough.”
“Perhaps it was not easy to understand Fatih’s dreams those days, but today when we see the spark in the eyes of the children educated in cartooning at the Cartoon Mill, the stories they produce, and the characters they come up with, I realise that Fatih is an absolute ‘Changemaker’ and I’m so glad he didn’t give up when he faced difficulties and carried [his dreams] forward with this school,” Safkan says.
“As the Sabanci Foundation, we are happy to support this project that puts children and youths into its centre and allows them to be productive in a universal field such as cartoons with the Changemakers programme,” Safkan concludes.
“These days we are setting up another cartoon school with the interest and support of Urgup district governor Mehmet Marasli, in Cappadocia. Our goal is to turn The Cartoon Mill Cappadocia into a cartoon institute and provide high quality long term education programmes,” Fatih Kucuk says when asked about his future plans.
“We plan to produce cartoons that are universal and carry ethical and cultural value there,” he adds.
The Sabanci Foundation Changemakers Programme began in 2009 and has reached 195 Changemakers from 43 cities in Turkey. It aims to make people who contribute to social development visible and to inspire society, with the motto “Make a Difference, Change Lives”. The programme has had close to 4,000 people and institutions nominated since its inception, and its videos have reached 35 million views in Turkey and abroad.