Turkish Shadow theatre Karagoz

Karagoz

Karagoz

The shadow theatre, which involves two-dimensional figures casting their shadows on a screen, had important place in Turkey as well as throughout the larger area of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, before they came to know shadow theatre in the sixteenth century, had enjoyed a long-standing established puppet tradition. There is virtually no kind of puppet show that Turkey has not tried. Puppet tradition came from Central Asia, but shadow theatre did not. Central Asia and Persia do not have shadow theatre. It was borrowed from Egypt in the sixteenth century. One question, however, remains and that is the origin of the Egyptian shadow theatre. There seems-little doubt that the shadow theatre was borrowed from Java by the Arabs. Arab trading and raiding expeditions kept them in continuous contact with Java. Now the question as to whether there was any indirect influence via Egypt of the Javanese on the Turkish shadow theatre is difficult to answer; yet there are several points in common between Turkish and Javanese shadow theatres. Turkish shadow theatre appears to be the product of a historical process whereby the Mameluke-derived shadow play technique was taken over by the Turks from a technical point of view only. In addition, it can be assumed that the Turkish shadow theatre borrowed movements, postures, and costumes of the Ottoman shadow theatre along with human actors such as Ottoman jesters and grotesque dancers, both of which had been in existence long before the advent of shadow theatre.

We do not know what early karagoz figures looked like as the oldest puppets extant today are no more than one hundred years old. However we have a rich source reference in the Ottoman miniatures of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These depict jesters and grotesque dancers, which conform to the style of karagoz figures not only in their costumes and headgear but also in their characteristic postures. Whether it was through the Egyptians or others that Turkey got Karagoz, all might have bequeathed a slight influence in their way. However, in essence, Karagoz is a rich cross section of Turkish culture, namely, of poetry, miniature painting music, folk customs, and oral tradition. So then, all these elements merged and fused in the early preparatory years of the sixteenth century to result in what is today known as Karagoz. By the seventeenth century, Karagoz was wholly identified. The name of Karagoz, as well as of kukla which in Turkish means a -puppet-, appeared for the first time in the seventeenth century.

Emin Senyer playing shadow theatre KARAGOZ

Emin Senyer playing shadow theatre KARAGOZ

*Drama at the Crossroads, By Metin And

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Turkish Shadow theatre Karagoz
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