IT'S RARE that an elderly person becomes an internet phenomenon and even rarer that that person is based in North Cyprus. Yet literally overnight, Ayşe Teksu, or Ayşaba as she’s affectionately known, has become the most talked about Turkish Cypriot grandmother on the planet.
From Büyükkonuk near Gazimağusa, Ayşaba stars in the lead role of Çekemeyenler Çatlasın (Bursting with Envy) – a hilarious new advert for TRNC Mercedes-Benz dealer Dünya Oto, which made its debut on social media last week. In the first 24 hours, this magical three-minute clip had been watched by more than 350,000 people. After seven days, it’s been viewed two million times and had over 31,000 shares on Facebook alone.
If you haven’t watched it, do! You don’t need to know Turkish, but it helps. Picture the scene: a typical TRNC village where Ayşaba and her husband Kenan live. She’s entered a local raffle and won a brand new sports convertible Mercedes. She can’t drive, but she’s damned if she’s going to let anyone else get their hands on it; not her kids, and not her neighbours. “Never, ever,” she tells us.
Yes, Ayşaba knows a bit of English, which she happily shows off. “I always dreamt about it,” she says before explaining in Turkish that she always wanted a convertible car.
So this stunning new white car remains parked on show outside her home. Each day, she calls her mates over and they go and sit in the car, chatting, peeling vegetables or just posing in their sunglasses with the roof down. When it’s too hot, she pays a local kid to bring her petrol so she can work the car’s air conditioner. Not surprisingly, Ayşaba's attitude has ruffled a few feathers in the neighbourhood, resulting in a twist at the end.
It’s a hoot from start to finish and by international advertising standards, it’s a huge hit. There can’t be a single Turkish Cypriot in North Cyprus who uses the internet and has not seen it. Whatever it cost Dünya Oto to employ the services of talented director Mehmet Ekin Vaiz and his Neydi Olacağı creative team, the massive exposure alone makes every lira they paid great value for money.
It ticks all the other boxes too: it’s memorable, it makes us laugh, and it tugs on the heartstrings. Every Turkish Cypriot family has an Ayşaba in its midst. And of course, because this is a professionally scripted ad, it has a clear message, delivered brilliantly by a predominantly unknown and inexperienced cast.
Mehmet Ekin Vaiz has carved a good name for himself with his Neydi Olacağı videos. The son of former CTP health minister Eşref Vaiz and a lawyer by profession, for the past few years Mehmet has instead opted to become a TV and internet personality with his satirical observations of TRNC political and social events. And Lord knows there is no short of comedy moments when assessing life in this corner of the Med.
He regularly switches roles from presenter to scriptwriter and director, delivering outstanding commentary that mocks everything, from the Cyprus talks to the TRNC civil service, and romantic relationships, with a healthy dose of Turkish Cypriot nostalgia thrown in for good measure.
One of my favourites is BM Genel Kuruluna . . . Bizi Burdan Aldırın, a clip from December 2015 where Mehmet seemingly addresses the UN General Assembly. Speaking in a formal style, he asks for Cyprus to be moved from its current dangerous geo-strategic location to a quieter corner of the globe. Using visual aids, he drags the island and repositions it alongside Scandinavian countries, attractive because of their “superior level of democracy”, while he also suggests the island drops anchor by Argentina and Brazil, so we can see the world’s top footballer Messi. He claims Turkish Cypriots pose no trouble: on Sundays we love to have a barbecue and we also like to do a bit of gossiping.
It is his sharp, witty political musings, melded with stereotypical cultural traits enacted by every day characters, that make Mehmet’s Neydi Olacağı clips so appealing. In Çekemeyenler Çatlasın, he revisits themes he has featured in previous works, taking them to an all together higher level. There is an assuredness about this commercial that makes me think it could stand as a kind of coming-of-age for our community.
Written and co-directed with Gülşen Erçin, it glows with the essence of Turkish Cypriotness. Like the starring role given to the late Ciğerci Ahmet Dayı in earlier Neydi Olacağı clips, elderly couple Ayşe and Kenan Teksu are central to the story. We rejoice in their personal tales and pearls of wisdom, and their efforts to adapt to modern-day life. The comedy remains respectful, in keeping with our culture of respecting our elders.
There is a nod to our best-loved Cypriot dinners and village life in the scene where Ayşaba and friends prep various foods together. I’m sure there have been some wacky uses of cars, but women picking through börülce and molehiya in a high-end Mercedes must be among the funniest. We also get a giggle out of Ayşaba placing her Lefkara lace on the car bonnet, showcasing an art form intrinsic to Cyprus and our tradition of protecting and decorating valuables with lace.
The Cypriot Turkish banter between Ayşaba and her husband of 67 years is as natural as it is entertaining. It was also clever and amusing to have Ayşaba casually drop in a few English words as she spoke; a common trait of older Cypriots who grew up under British colonial rule.
And who can’t relate to Ayşaba’s life principle of “the best or nothing”? We may be from a country that doesn’t officially exist, but that doesn’t curtail our aspirations.
Bless you Mehmet Ekin Vaiz for Çekemeyenler Çatlasın. It’s an instant classic – a celebration of all that is fine about us Turkish Cypriots. And Mercedes-Benz if you’re looking for a new face to front your brand, I’m sure Ayşaba will be delighted.
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