Waterside Commerce, Istanbul: Flower Vendor with Coat to Match

Galata Bridge, Istanbul Turkey, 2012. (Fuji X100) Click to enlarge.

Flower Vendor, Galata Bridge, Istanbul Turkey, December, 2011. In the background to the right: a few of the ubiquitous amateur anglers who line railings of the bridge year-round in expectation of an evening’s meal. (Fuji X100.) Click to enlarge.

The red flowers are kokina çiçeği. Kokina is a Turkish loan word from the Greek kokinos, meaning “red.”  In Istanbul kokina çiçeği are sold as New Years decorations, a custom borrowed from the city’s once-large and vibrant ethnic Greek population.  Botany is not my strong suit, but to me kokina çiçeği resemble a variety of mistletoe — not only in their appearance but also in their function as mid-winter talismans. In many ancient cultures, mistletoe varieties — especially those parasitic to oak — were associated with virility, fertility, and regeneration, part of the reason why, in the Anglo-Saxon world, men and women who pass together under Christmas-season mistletoe traditionally were compelled to kiss. Mistletoe may also have been the “golden bough” that Aeneas took with him as a placating gift on his trip to the underworld and, thus, the inspiration from which Sir James George Frazer’s took the name for his famed late-19th- early-20th-century study of myth land legend.  The flower seller, by the way, is an Istanbul Rom (Gypsy).  In much of southeast Europe, urban Roma labor long hours in the ornamental flower trade, as street vendors and, less visible to the casual stroller, as wholesalers as well.  Central and Eastern Europeans who accuse Roma of willful unemployment are blind to the those who labor at the base of the pyramid of urban economic activities.

Technical footnote…

When processing the raw file of this photo in Lightroom, I couldn’t resist the temptation to nudge the red-saturation slider slightly rightwards!

1 comment
  1. Sibel said:

    Very nice photo. Love the colours. Man with cigarette, good catch, mostly sitting women sells…

    Writing ; Nice to learn new things. Surprising to see the meaning of a flower and where the story links.

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