THE TURKISH SHADOW PLAY
For centuries the shadow play entertained Turkish audience during Ramazan. These puppet plays are acted out by jointed, coloured and semi-transparent figures behind a white curtain.
Karagöz and Hacivad are the heroes of the Turkish shadow play. Although he is illiterate, Karagöz always gets better of the educated Hacivad with his word games. Karagöz represents the ordinary man of common sense; honest and trustworthy. He is usually unemployed and invests money on things which never work. He frequently uses violence, beating Hacivad and the other characters.
Various origins have been cited for the shadow play, including Java, Spain, Portugal and Egypt. Some people believe that the play was first performed for the Ottoman Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) in Egypt following his conquest of the Memluks. However, according to the 17th century Turkish writer Evliya Çelebi, Karagöz was first performed at the Ottoman palace during the time of Beyazıd I (1389-1402).
Legend attributes the character of Karagöz to a real person who lived during the time of Orhan Bey (1324-1360). A mosque was being built in Bursa, the capital of that time. Among labourers there were two men named Karagöz and Hacivad. They kept drawing others’ attention from their work with their humorous dialogues. As a result, construction of the mosque took longer than expected and when the angry Sultan heard about their distraction, he had them both executed. However, the pair of comedians were missed by people so much and a man named Şeyh Küşteri made images of them from camel skin and began to perform puppet shows.
Karagöz plays always begin with Hacivad’s entry. The puppet moves to the rhytm of the tambourine and sings a song known as “semai”, which is different at each performance. After saying a prayer, he declares that he is searching for a friend and noisily calls Karagöz to the stage with a speech. It always ends with the words, “Yar bana bir eğlence.”...