MALAK KARSH

Quick facts

Story kiosk location

  • Mackenzie and York Steps

Important dates

  • (1937) The year that photographer Malak Karsh immigrated to Ottawa from Turkey, following his already famous brother, Yousuf who had moved to Canada in 1923.

Audiofile

  • No

Who lived here?

  • Malak Karsh was instrumental in establishing Ottawa’s spring tulip festival held annually since 1953. 

Imagine Major Hill’s Park full of tulips, pavilions, food stalls, and a music stage...

For years this was the scene every May during Ottawa’s famous Tulip Festival, but while the tulips remain, events were no longer held after 2012.


Malak, Pulpwood logs on the Ottawa River, Malak Karsh fonds, Library and Archives                                                                  Canada, e010994595

Malak Karsh was born in Turkey in 1915 and followed his photographer brother Yousuf to Canada in the 1930s.  Malak had a deep appreciation for Ottawa’s landscape and wanted to capture the surrounding beauty of every season.

 

His first photograph to gain fame was popularly known as “Paper and Politics”. It graced the back of the Canadian one-dollar bill, while the front featured Queen Elizabeth II, a portrait taken by Yousuf.

 


Malak, Vista of Parliament Hill from Rideau Hall, Canadian Photography Institute,                                                            National Gallery of Canada, 2003

One of Malak’s greatest contributions to Ottawa’s history came after Canada began receiving tulips from the Dutch Royal Family, as an expression of gratitude for the nation’s hand in liberating the Netherlands during World War II and providing sanctuary for young Princess Juliana. Malak was drawn to the beauty of the tulips and took hundreds of photographs of them.

 


Malak, [Tulips at Parliament Hill], Malak Karsh fonds, Library and Archives Canada, e010994594

In 1952 Malak approached the Ottawa Board of Trade with the idea for an annual Tulip Festival. A year later the first Tulip Festival was celebrated, and it continues to attract thousands of visitors to the nation’s capital every May. Malak Karsh passed away in 2001 and at the time of his death he remained honorary president of the Tulip Festival.

 

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