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[Folk Arts] [Dramatic folk arts]


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The puppet shadow play which involves figures casting their shadow, started to develop in the 15th Century and earned its dramatic characteristic in the first half of the 19th century. It is called the theatrical representation with a central stage as the play takes place at the center of an area circled by the spectators.

Two protagonists of the puppet shadow play, which is actually the folk theatre of the city, are Kavuklu and Pisekar. The puppet shadow play is actually based on the fierce dialogue between these characters. Kavuklu is a fussy, cunny, and funny guy who seems illiterate. Pisekar is an educated, intelligent, old man who can distinguish good from bad.

Other than Kavuklu and Pisekar, the other characters in Karagoz can be seen in (Acem, Karadenizli, Arnavut, Tuzsuz Deli Bekir, Zenneler vb.) the puppet shadow plays.

The simple veil called ‘The New World’ stands for the house, and the round table stands for the shop. The two chairs are also parts of the decor.

MEDDAH (The Story Teller)

The story tellers whose duty is telling us the stories are the professionals in the art of imitation. It is a one person show in which the screen, scene, decor and the costume are all seen in just one artist.

The story teller sits on a chair and tells stories to the audience. The topics are the daily events, the stories, epics and legends.

The accessories of a story teller are a napkin and a walking stick. The subjects are usually funny, ethical and literary styles from which a conclusion can be drawn. The antagonists of the stories usually use their own languages and the dialects of the area they live in. The story teller is just like the sole artist of a theatre play. During the Ottomans, when reading was not popular, and people chose listening instead of reading, this art was far too popular in the palace, cities, towns, on Ramadan nights, in cafes, fasts and circumcision celebrations.


The village plays, known as the village theatre are the plays shown on the wedding celebrations, fasts, and on specific days of the year under the title of ‘giving a play’ or ‘making a play’ in the name of welfare, richness, and health and so as to congratulate the new year. These plays have a ceremonial point, as well. The plays can take place in large squares and in a room if it is winter.

These plays, which have changed greatly since the primitive times, were in the form of ceremonies to worship god or goddesses or supernatural powers so that they would provide a richer life. Theses plays, stemming from various beliefs and myths, provide a synthesis of the cultural values Turks have brought form the Middle Asia and the Islamic values they have adopted since they became Muslims.

The games that are to be watched provide an example of primitive plays. They are functional in terms of the society and religion, not in terms of art.

Some examples of the plays that are watched in the villages are taken from the real life (tin man, hairdresser, etc.) ; some imitate the animals (camel, bear, fox, eagle, etc.) ; some are plays to signal the change of seasons and years (the bride with no beard) ; and some are games to worship fruitfulness and richness (plays for the rain).

The play about face, taking place on the first day when the seed was spread or on the last day of the harvest, the camel skin, the sheep skin, played when the animals start to get hairy in the mother’s womb, and the sheep worshipping ceremonies taking place at a certain time each year in order to control the times when these animals give birth and having the characteristics of a seasonal fast, are only some of the important plays to be watched in the villages.


Karagoz is a puppet shadow play in which the shadow of the figures made up of the camel or water buffalo skin, and which are in the shape of human beings, animals or objects are cast upon the screen by using the background light. The names comes form Karagoz, who is the antagonist of these games.

The puppet shadow play named as Karagoz among the public, has an important place in Turkish cultural life. The researches on the origins of Karagoz plays, indicate that the play is closely related to the city of Bursa. As both Karagoz and Hacivat who are the protagonists in the play, and both Seyh Kusteri, the creator of the play are from Bursa, various international festivals of puppet shadow play are held in Bursa.

The origins of the puppet shadow play goes back to the far eastern countries like Java, China and Indonesia for some, and the Mediterranean countries for some. Considering the Hittite relieves found in many areas in Anatolia, they seem to reflect the scenes of Karagoz puppet shadow play. The similarities in the figures, and even in their dressings, make people think that Karagoz plays were created by being inspired form these figures. Therefore, it might be an appropriate approach to consider Anatolia as the origin of these plays.

Some researchers like the German author Jacob and the Russian Samayloic, have written about the fact that the Turks living in the Middle Asia have made some plays like “Kolkorcan”, “cadır hayal”, and that they knew all about these games before immigration to Anatolia. Some sources state that Arab communities have known about the puppet shadow play called ‘Hayal-i Zil’ by them since the reign of Selahattin Eyyubi living around 1184 and that it was introduced to the Ottomans by the artists Yavuz Sultan Selim, taking Egypt in 1517, brought to Turkey.

In brief, it might be accepted that Karagoz, the Turkish puppet shadow play, reached its maturity by the effects of several cultures and reached a synthesis in the era of the Ottoman Turks.

In his writings, Evliya Celebi asserts that the two protagonists of the plays named the Turkish puppet shadow play among the folk and ‘Lub-u hayal, zilli hayal and sabbazi’ in the literature, are the real people who lived in Bursa. He provides detailed information on these people, as well. Bursa has become a very crowded city with the people escaping from Mogol invasion in the 14th century and the leaders of some Turkish principalities taking refuge in that city. Hacivat and Karagoz meet each other there. They work in the constructions. They pick on each other while talking an this entertains people They both have a natural capability at making people laugh. It takes only a short time for their reputation at entertainment spread. When it is slowly found out how funny they are, they take part in various meetings and entertainments held by the important people of the city. However, the reality they voice and their sarcastic way in criticizing the high authorities cost them too much.

On the other hand, the citizens have embraced them so much that they still live on the screen as the puppet shadow play. Seyh Mahmud Kusteri, buried in Bursa, is considered to be the inventor of the shadow puppet play. This approach is so widespread that it has become indisputable for the last two or three years.

Karagoz has become one of the most favored entertainment types since the 18th century. The play is based on the ability of just one artist. The artist casts the shadow of the puppet, and makes all the imitations and dialectic changes himself.

The subjects in the Karagoz plays include funny points. Double meanings, connotations, exaggerations, and imitations are the basic points of entertainment. The play can be inspected in four parts:

-Haicvat appears on the screen singing a semai, and calls on Karagoz after singing the screen ode(gazelle) and Karagoz fights Hacivat. This part is called the ‘mukaddime’, (introduction). In the prelude, it is noted that this play is a mirror reflecting the realities and a learning tool and both the philosophical and mystic meanings are noted.

- In the ‘muhavere’ part the dialogues between the protagonists of the play, namely Karagoz and Hacivat take place. These dialogues are mostly based on talking, not on action. Muhavere can be in the form of playful formula used in the folk narrative. In this part, the characteristics and the opposite features of Karagoz and Hacivat are emphasized. These parts can be either related to the plays or irrelevant at all.
- The part in which the real story is told is named as ‘fasil’. The play is named according to the subject here. The other players leave the scene at the end of the fasil anyhow. Hacivat and Karagoz are alone in the end.

-In the closing part, which is completed with the dialogues between Karagoz and Hacivat and directed towards the audience and which signals the end of the play, the protagonist beg the pardons of the audience for their mistakes. In this part, the next play is announced and thus ends the play.

The plays named as the Karagoz includes satire and burlesque. These can even aim at the governors in a funny way.

The protagonists are Karagoz and Hacivat. Karagoz symbolizes the ethical values and common sense of the people. He is outspoken. Hacivat is a literate, careful, fickle person. The other characters like Tuzsuz Celebi, Matiz, Beberuhi, Arnavut, Yahudi, Çerkez, Kurt, Laz, Tiryaki, Zenneler are the people we can easily meet in the society.

Karagoz has attracted the attention of the palace people and has been supported by them, as well. It has taken place in the ceremonies and circumcision celebrations of the princes.

Karagoz has become a part of Ottoman culture the centre of which is Istanbul. We can see the daily life of Istanbul clearly in Karagoz plays. Some of the most well-known of these are “Agalik, Buyuk Evlenme, Kayik, Tahmis, Ferhat ile Şirin, Balikci, Cazular, Kanli Nigar, Leyla ile Mecnun, Ters Evlenme, Tahir ile Zuhre, Yalova Sefasi, Karagoz'un Yaziciliği, Karagoz'un Asikligi, Karagoz'un Hekimligi”.

Karagoz, one of the most important entertainment types, took place in Ramadan, circumcision fasts, ceremonies, cafes, and gardens. It is known that Karagoz which criticizes the society was widespread in Istanbul. The artists tour in Anatolian cities, as well. And today there are still some artists.

The technical features of Karagoz: The screen on which the shadows are cast is called the “mirror”. In the inner side, there is a special wood. Other than these, bell, tambourine, reed, pipe, whistle, and oil lamp or lamp to cast the shadows on the screen. These are put on the a special wood. The figures used in the play are about 30-40 centimeters, made of the skin of water buffalo and cattle. The skin is turned into a transparent form using a special method. Then it is engraved by using sharp knives. The parts are held onto each other by ropes called ‘kiris’ or ‘katkut’. Finally, a special type of ink or paint is used to paint the figures.


The puppet show , which means baby in Turkish, and having lots of names in Anatolia today like ‘korcak, kudurcuk, kaburcuk, kogurcak, kaurcak, lubet, etc.’ is one of the oldest plays to be watched. The puppet show, known as the “Korkolcak”,” Cadırhayal” (the puppet show with ropes) is believed to have taken place in the Middle Asia and has been brought to Anatolia from that region.

The play having its own simple techniques in many of the Turkish groups and known as the puppet show in Turkish cities since the 17th century is commonly known in Anatolia as ‘bebek, cömce gelin,and karacör’. These plays are mostly taken from the daily life, and the literary stories, based on action and movement. They are known to have been played since the 14th century. The antagonists of this play are Ibis and the old man. Ibis is cunny and witty and the old man is a wealthy man.

The puppet show has some different types like hand puppet, car puppet, and chair puppet in our country, and it has started to lose its value in the 19th century. Only a few artists have exerted efforts to make the puppet show sustain its position in the republican era. Currently, there are only a few experts interested.