TURKISH SHADOW THEATER: KARAGOZ by Hayali Mustafa Mutlu

 


Hayali Mustafa Mutlu

He was born in Ankara in 1942. He graduated from the Theater Department of the Ankara University Faculty of Language, History and Geography. His graduation theme was on "Tradition Folk Thesite".

Many of his articles on the Traditional Turkish Theatre, Folklore and Shadow Theatre were published in magazines of Sumerbank, the Chamber of Commerce and Meydan. In seminars, realized by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, he gave presentations on the shadow theatre performances and the making of its figures. Through various exhibitions and courses he demonstrated and introduced this art.

He is founding member of UNIMA and became in 1078 artist of the Turkish State Theatres. He was invited in many festivals in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Finland, England, Syria, Tunisia, Austria, Canada, Poland, France and Sweden.

He made productions for the television, radio and cinema. He is still working at the Turkish State Theatres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origins

Researchers have offered various views on the origins of Turkish Shadow Theater. Some claim that it first passed from China by way of India. Later it was taken by the Mongols from the Chinese and transmitted to the Turkish peoples of Central Asia. Thus the art of Shadow Theater was brought to Anatolia by the Turkish people emigrating from Central Asia. Other scholars claim that shadow theater came to Anatolia in the 16th century from Egypt. The advocates of this view claim that when Yavuz Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in 1517, he saw shadow theater performed during a party put on to his honor. Yavuz Sultan Selim was so impressed with it that he took the puppeteer back to his palace in Istanbul. There his 21 year old son, later Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, developed an interest in the plays and watched them a great deal. Thus shadow theater found its way into the Ottoman palaces.

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Development of Shadow Theater in Turkey  

Shadow Theater gained great popularity among the people and the Turkish puppeteers much improved the techniques they had inherited from others. The colorless and motionless presentations of the Egyptian shadow play gained much rich coloring and mobility in the Turkish form of the art.

The Turkish shadow plays were given the names Hadar Hayal, Zilli Hayal, and Hayal-i Zill, meaning "shadow phantoms" or phantoms of shadow". More recently, however, the Turkish Shadow Theater came to be known as Karagoz Oyunlari (Karagoz Plays), after the main character, Karagoz.

There are several versions of how Karagoz became the central figure of the plays. Evliya Chelebi, the famous 17th centruy Ottoman traveler and writer, devotes considerable space to Karagoz and his partner, Hacivat in his writings. He also gives a list of the leading Karagoz puppeteers of his time, adding brief biographical sketches of each.

Evliya Chelebi says that the story of these two men was well known in Anatolia and some enterprising artist capitalized on the popularity of the story by making leather figures of Karagoz and Hacivat and giving performances with them. According to Evliya Chelebi, the Karagoz plays were a very prominent part of not only the common people's lives, but also of the Ottoman place life. The shadow plays were an important part of the great celebration in 1623 of the coronation of Sultan Murat IV. During his reign many master puppeteers emerged, and the shadow plays assumed the basic forms they have today.

in the 19th century Karagoz plays were even more popular and were frequently performed in the palace. After the First World War, shadow theater declined in importance, being unable to compete with the cinema and modern drama. Nevertheless it still survives.

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Techniques of the Karagoz

The Karagoz plays are performed behind a white sloth screen. 

The white screen is known as ayna, (i.e.mirror). Orginally the size of the screen was 2x2.5m. but later it was reduced to 1.10x1.80cm.

It is surrounded by a frame of thick black cloth. At the bottom of the screen on the inside is a wooden shelf known as pesh tastasi. Some of the items the puppeteers uses in this performance are kept here: a bell, a tambourine, a reed pipe (wind instrument) and candles or electric lights which are used to illuminate the screen. The forked rods for holding the figures are also kept there.

The figures, called tasvir, are 32 to 40 centimeters long, and are generally made of water buffalo, cattle or camel skin. Those made of camel skin  are more transparent than the others, so they show the colors and forms better. The skins are treated with special chemicals to make them transparent. After this treatment, the forms are cut out on a wooden bench. A special knife, called a nevrekan is used for this work. Then the figures are painted with synthetic or vegetable dies. Last of all the holes for the manipulating rods are cut.

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The Parts of the Karagoz Play

I. The Prolugue

Before the play begins, a decorative scene (a house, a plant or a bouquet of flowers) is put on the screen. As the prologue begins, this scene is slowly removed from the screen to the music of a reed pipe. Then from the left side of the screen comes Hacivat. He enters singing a traditional song about the philosophical meaning of the screen (it represents the universe). He invites Karagoz to come the screen, and Karagoz complies.

II. The Dialogue 

In this part, Karagoz and Hacivat may exchange riddles or give an account of a dream. telling it as though it really happened. The dialogue is concluded with the teaching of a moral.

III. The Main Play

The plot is represented, and all the various figures play their roles.

IV. The Epilogue

This part is very short. Hacivat addresses Karagoz with a poem:

"Yiktin perdeyi eyledin viran

Varayim sahibine haber vereyim heman."

(The screen you have completely torn down, I shall tell the owner with a frown.)

The owner is of course, God, since the screen represents the universe. All the figures are removed from the screen, and a cengi (woman dancer) appears and dances to music.

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Reference: Karagoz - Kukla Gosterileri (Turkish Shadow Theater: Karagoz) by Mustafa Kutlu, T.C. Kultur Bakanligi Ankara Devlet Tiyatrosu

 

All Rights Reserved 1999-2001. Turkish American Association for Cultural Exchange.