The Karagöz puppets have a psychotic experience in Bursa


Karagöz puppet figures from Bursa’s Karagöz puppet museum (Image by Liz Cameron)

Recently, I went to visit the puppets while they were on sabbatical in Turkey.

We met up in Istanbul and took in some sightseeing in Safranbolu before heading to their point of origin – Bursa.

As you may know, Karagöz ve Hacivad were born in Bursa when it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire…that’s a long time ago, folks!


Female Karagöz puppets are somewhat rare to see, as I understand it, and I was pleased to see many female characters at the museum (Image by Liz Cameron)

When I first visited the city in 2004, the puppets chose to inhabit my head in order to help me with my cross-cultural relationship.


Cengi – or lady dancer puppet from the Karagöz puppet museum in Bursa (Image by Liz Cameron)

Of course this was done through some sort of time hop.  We are a magical realism-oriented blog, after all.

It’s been 11 years now since the puppets have been back to their birthplace.

So, of course, they wanted to head back on their sabbatical.

As we drove into the thriving metropolis, the puppets could barely contain their glee.  “Home at last! Home at last! Let’s go get some Iskander kebap!”  But before long, I decided that the amount of cholesterol we would imbibe with that kebap would be a detriment to the diet, so a trip to the Karagöz Museum was in order instead.  What better place to celebrate the history of Karagöz shadow puppetry?  What I didn’t expect is what unfolded next.

We noisily entered the empty museum with great vim and vigor.  Before long, the puppets were spread across the building, revelling in the numerous exhibits of Karagöz puppet characters.  Of course, all of the puppets in the cabinets came out to greet their old friends – but things got a little bit weird when the puppets began to meet THEMSELVES!

Karagöz stared at five to ten versions of himself, and just as he began to feel the room spinning, Hacivad Bey had the same experience.  As they are the two most famous Karagöz puppets, it was no wonder that they experienced a touch of psychosis and/or multiple personality disorder.  Most of the other puppets found themselves somewhere in the museum, with wild-eyes and hearts-a-beating!

But what really sent ALL of the puppets around the bend was the visit to the puppet-making room.  There, the Karagöz puppet master himself showed us how he uses patterns to trace the shapes of the puppets onto cured camel hides.  This is a see-through (albeit cloudy) piece of hide that is later colored.  As he whipped out his exacto knife to show us the technique, the entire Karagöz puppet troupe fainted in one fell swoop.

Have you ever had to administer smelling salts to that many Ottoman-era puppets living in your head? Not a fun time, I assure you.  I practically had to call out the Red Crescent emergency workers to help me.  All’s well that ends well, though, and thanks to a very thoughtful unnamed co-visitor, we even came home with some new friends.


Karagöz puppet master showing us how he cuts cured camel skin in order to make these shadow puppets – he terrified the puppets with his exacto knife (Image by Liz Cameron)






A mother with two children – something I have never seen before in Karagöz imagery. Was this the wife of Karagöz? Could he even sustain a wife? (Image by Liz Cameron)



This entry was posted in Introducing the Karagöz puppets, Puppets on the move around the world, Turkish destinations, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Karagöz puppets have a psychotic experience in Bursa

  1. Alan says:

    how well I remember our visit to the museum and the instructive fun on meeting the ‘professor’ of puppeteering. Thank you for the joy of my revived memories.

  2. Gwen Thomas says:


  3. lizcameron says:

    I remember that post with fondness!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s