Karagöz (literal translation: “black eye”) is a word that refers both to an individual puppet character from the Ottoman Empire era AND to the entire troupe of Karagöz shadow puppets that surround him. I have described this band of puppets in brief, here. And I have also introduced them as they introduced themselves to me, in their hometown of Bursa…you can revisit that episode by clicking here.
In my blogworld, a band of Karagöz puppets have inhabited me to guide my cross-cultural road trip through my Turkish-American marriage – sort of like inner voices, but not the schizophrenic type :).
Technically, Karagöz shadow puppets, known as tashvirs, are constructed from the hides of oxen or camels and are held on dowels in front of a lighted sheet in order to create shadows. Each play usually begins with a dancing lady – or some other character who ‘sets the stage’ for the story to unfold involving shrieking stereotypes, singing within tambourine shakes, poetry, myth-repetition, tongue-twisting and general merriment.
Emanating from the city of Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire circa 1326, Karagöz puppets have delighted children and adults alike for centuries. Said to be a tribute to Karagöz and Hacivad, two spirited men that loved to co-recite stories to their co-workers while taking breaks from the construction of Bursa’s stunning Ulu Cami (Ulu Mosque), the puppets are the living memory of those men who were executed for slowing the process of the mosque’s construction. Eee gads!
Now that I have tenure (as you may recall from when the puppets attended my hearing), maybe I don’t have to worry about execution!
- On my writing about cross-cultural marriage (with the Karagöz puppets) (elizcameron.com)
- How to Build a Simple Shadow Puppet Theater (innerchildfun.com)