Turkish shadow play looking for more African viewers

Karagoz master says, aim of his play was to show that people are same, regardless of beliefs or ethnicity

James Tasamba   | 20.07.2019
Turkish shadow play looking for more African viewers

KIGALI, Rwanda 

A famous traditional Turkish shadow play, Karagoz Istanbul Explorer will be staged for different African audiences, following its successful show at Africa’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Kigali, Rwanda, said Fatih Polat, the Karagoz master.

“I received lot of inspiring feedback. I count this Rwandan performance as the starting point, to perform to other big audiences in Africa,” Polat told Anadolu Agency, after performing at the show’s opening night, at Kigali genocide memorial.

The fifth annual Ubumuntu Arts Festival featured theatrical performances that sought to answer the question: “What if the walls you built for others today, became your own downfall tomorrow?”

Across a black stage wall, a group of local and international artists who gathered here for three days scribbled wordings of humanity in bright color chalk others in white.

“Stop violence, fight against divisionism and any kind of crime against humanity. Peace to everyone, Peace in the world. Together we can,” they said.

Polat performed on July 12, alongside artists from Rwanda, Uganda, the U.S., Austria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Polat said one of the main aims of Karagoz play is to show that people are same regardless of one's beliefs or ethnic group.

“You can be Jewish, White, or Indian, you can be a believer in Prophet Mohamed or Jesus that doesn’t matter,” he said.

“What is important is that we are all the same. We should not be divided by ethnicity or our beliefs. People should be able to integrate.”

The festival incorporated performances ranging from theater, poetry, dance, movements and acrobatics.

The troupes from 16 countries including Turkey participated in the festival.

Polat said that Karagoz show also offers him an opportunity, to invite people to visit Istanbul to see all historical features. He noted that he was happy to raise his country’s flag, while enacting Istanbul Explorer at this festival successfully.

Polat mentioned that different cultures at the festival excited him.

“I felt excited after the show when onlookers smiled and laughed. It showed me that they loved the show, even when they do not know about Karagoz,” he said.

“After the show, several onlookers came and hugged and thanked me, saying it was a very nice show brother, very nice show. It was really exciting to me. I think this might be the start of Karagoz tours in Africa.”

Karagoz Istanbul Explorer is a famous shadow play about two friends. The comic story features main characters Karagoz and Hacivat, who lived in the traditional Turkish shadow and explored places together.

The puppets are manipulated by one lead artist. The play presents a man who wants to explore Istanbul. Karagoz and his friend Hacivat embarked on a journey and faced interesting adventures.

The traditional Turkish shadow theatre is one of the oldest form of the Turkish art.

The play, occupying an important place in Turkey, involves two-dimensional figures in the shape of people, casting their shadows on a screen.

The figures hide in the shape of people or things are held on rods in front of a light source to cast their shadows on a screen.

The play begins with the projection of an introductory figure on the screen, who suggests the themes of the drama, before it vanishes to the shrill sound of a whistle. The opening segment is called mukaddime (beginning) where Hacivat after reciting the curtain poem, calls for Karagoz, and they have an argument.

Karagoz was registered on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of Turkey in 2009.

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