HACİVAT & KARAGÖZ – Turkish Shadow Theatre

According to some researchers, the shadow theater which is accepted as a kind of Puppet Theater has been played since migration from Central Asia. The people who share this opinion claim that, the shadow art whose origin is accepted as Far East had passed from China to Turks who lived in Central Asia, then passed to Anatolia by immigrations. According to another opinion shadow art’s origin is Far East Countries but passed to Anatolia by Egypt route. It was told that two shadow artists were transferred to Istanbul by Ottoman Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim when he came back from military expedition to Egypt in 1517, after he had seen and watched their play there, so Turks first met the shadow art. After shadow play had come to Anatolia, it was modified to a new type of art by Turkish artists. Firstly the pictures made of camel skin which was modified to a wonderful art product by good processing of skin, making it transparent and painting it with bright colors. The play was composed in a structural entireness; it was divided to four sections as introduction, conversation, play and final. The events were organized within subject integrity and play types were multiplied so that different cultural groups of Ottoman Empire had been taken place in Karagöz Screen.

Previously shadow play was named with the puppet as Hayal, Hayal-i Zil, Zilli Hayal, but after the beginning of 17th century it was called as Karagöz. Puppet name was used also after this date.

The main characters of the play are Karagöz and Hacivat. Lots of stories are told about these people really lived. The most popular one of these stories, at the same time it’s accepted as origin of arising of Karagöz art, is related with Great Mosque (Ulu Cami) in Bursa. According the story, construction of Great Mosque was started in Bursa, during Ottoman Sultan Orhan Bey Period. Karagöz works as a master workman of iron and Hacivat works as a master workman of wall at this construction. The conversations and jokes between Karagöz and Hacivat prevent the other workers to do their jobs so that the construction can’t be completed on time. Sultan Orhan has killed Karagöz and Hacivat who caused the construction held up. Then he feels sad because of having them killed. Kushteri who sees the Sultan upset, tries to entertain him by making figures of Karagöz and Hacivat from skin, and playing the shadows, which light reflects to screen. In this way Karagöz play was created.

Karagöz art which was progressed during 17th century got its best in the 18th century. Karagöz was the most popular show among public in Istanbul which was the capital of Ottoman Empire, and those days it was on spread out to Rumania, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Syria. At the beginning Karagöz was played by Turkish artists for Turks who live there, in time local artists learned the art and played for their own people in their own language.

The people in Karagöz play are typical. Events and people are taken superficially, but typical and important characters are emphasized and some messages given to audience. The main characters of play are Karagöz and Hacivat. Karagöz represents the public and Hacivat represents upper class. The other characters represent communities who lived in Ottoman Empire, and were stereotypes. These types are; The man from Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Iranian, Arabian, people from Kayseri, Black Sea Region, Kastamonu, Aydın, and Drunkard (Matiz),Dandies ( Chelebi), Dwarf (Beberuhi),Women Dancer (Çengi), wife of Karagoz, sons of Karagoz and Hacivat.

Every event and subject is told in comedy style in Karagöz plays. In all plays funny factors are in the foreground. Funny factors are given by speeches and motions. Funny in speech is provided by irony, misunderstandings, and accent imitations. All characters are vocalized in their own local accents. Funny in motion is provided by fights, falls and stand ups, and crashes to something or somebody.

After 19th century interest to Karagöz, the most appreciated and enjoyed show style, began to decrease. Especially when European Theaters came to Istanbul and Ottoman Empire began to weaken, interest to this art decreased. After establishment of Republic of Turkey, Karagöz and Shadow Art came to life again, and it’s been trying to keep alive by efforts of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, UNIMA Turkey National Center and artists.

For more information please visit www.Karagoz.net



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