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Hacivat (left) and Karagöz (right)

Karagöz (meaning blackeye in Turkish) and Hacivat (also written Hacivad) are the lead characters of the traditional Turkish shadow play, popularized during the Ottoman period. The central theme of the plays are the contrasting interaction between the two main characters: Karagöz represents the illiterate but straightforward public, whereas Hacivat belongs to the educated class, speaking Ottoman Turkish and using a poetical and literary language. Karagöz's native wit always gets the better of Hacivat's learning (but his money-making ventures always fail).[1]

Karagöz-Hacivat plays are especially associated with Ramadan. Until the rise of radio and film, it was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Turkey. It survives today mainly in a toned-down form intended for audiences of children.[1]

When the plays were first performed is unclear. Some believe that the first Karagöz-Hacivat play was performed for sultan Selim I (reigned 1512–1520) in Egypt after his conquest of the Memluks, but 17th century writer Evliya Çelebi stated that it had been performed in the Ottoman palace as early as the reign of Bayezid I (reigned 1389–1402). In the 16th century, Ottoman Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi issued a celebrated opinion allowing the performance of Karagöz plays.[2]

Karagöz and Hacivat themselves are supposedly modeled on two laborers whose banter entertained their co-workers (and slowed down the work) during the construction of a mosque in Bursa during the reign of Orhan I (who ruled the nascent Ottoman Empire 1326–1359). They were executed for the resulting delay of the work, but became folk heroes. One version of the legend says that a contemporary of theirs, one Şeyh Küşteri, made camel-hide puppets of them and began to perform plays.[1]

Karagöz can be deceitful, lewd, and even violent.[1] Other characters in these plays are the drunkard Tuzsuz Deli Bekir with his wine bottle, the long-necked Uzun Efe, the opium addict Kanbur Tiryaki with his pipe, Altı Kariş Beberuhi (an eccentric dwarf), the half-wit Denyo, the spendthrift Civan, and Nigâr, a flirtatious woman. There may also be dancers and djinns, and various portrayals of non-Turks: an Arab who knows no Turkish (typically a beggar or sweet-seller), a black servant woman, a Circassian servant girl, an Albanian security guard, a Greek (usually a doctor), an Armenian (usually a footman or money-changer), a Jew (usually a goldsmith or scrap-dealer), a Laz (usually a boatman), or a Persian (who recites poetry with an Azeri accent).[1]


Karagöz plays

Karagöz and Hacivat play at Turkfest in Seattle (2007)

Karagöz plays are structured in four parts:

  • Mukaddime: Introduction. Hacivat sings a semai (different at each performance), recites a prayer, and indicates that he is looking for his friend Karagöz, whom he beckons to the scene with a speech that always ends "Yar bana bir eğlence" ("Oh, for some amusement"). Karagöz enters from the opposite side.
  • Muhavere: dialogue between Karagöz and Hacivat
  • Fasil: main plot
  • Bitiş: Conclusion, always a short argument between Karagöz and Hacivat, always ending with Hacivat yelling at Karagöz that he has "ruined" whatever matter was at hand and has "brought the curtain down," and Karagöz replying "May my transgressions be forgiven."

Sources: [1][3]


Hayalî Craig Jacobrown at Turkfest in Seattle (2007)

Animators (or the puppet masters) of Karagöz plays are called hayalî, meaning both 'imaginary' and 'image creator'. (They are also known as Karagözcü or hayalbaz.) A single hayalî impersonates every single character in the play by mimicking sounds, talking in different dialects, chanting or singing songs of the character in focus. He is normally assisted by an apprentice who sets up and tears down, and who hands him the puppets as needed. The latter task might also be performed by a sandıkkâr (from "sandık", "chest"). A yardak might sing songs, and a dairezen play the tambourine.[1]

The puppets themselves have jointed limbs and are made from the hide of a camel or a water buffalo. The hide is worked until it is semi-transparent; then it is colored, resulting in colorful projections. The lamp for projection is known as a şem’a (literally "candle"), but is typically an oil lamp. Images are projected onto a white muslin screen known as the ayna ("mirror"). Projections is from the rear, so the audience does not see the puppeteer. Puppets are typically 35–40 centimeters in height.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ersin Alok, "Karagöz-Hacivat: The Turkish Shadow Play", Skylife - Şubat (Turkish Airlines inflight magazine), February 1996, p. 66–69.
  2. ^ Schneider, Irene (2001). "Ebussuud". in Michael Stolleis (ed.) (in German). Juristen: ein biographisches Lexikon; von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert (2nd edition ed.). München: Beck. pp. 193. ISBN 3406 45957 9.  
  3. ^ Emin Senyer, Parts of Turkish Shadow Theatre Karagoz, Accessed online 22 October 2007.


Kudret, Cevdet. 2004. Karagöz. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları. 119., Sanat, 2111. ISBN 975-08-0862-2

External links

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