Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Karagöz is a form of shadow theatre in Turkey in which figures known as tasvirs made of camel or ox hide in the shape of people or things are held on rods in front of a light source to cast their shadows onto a cotton screen. A play begins with the projection of an introductory figure to set the scene and suggest the themes of the drama, before it vanishes to the shrill sound of a whistle, giving way to a main performance that may incorporate singing, tambourine music, poetry, myth, tongue-twisters and riddles. The usually comic stories feature the main characters Karagöz and Hacivat and a host of others, including a cabaret chanteuse called Kantocu and an illusionist-acrobat named Hokkabaz, and abound in puns and imitations of regional accents. The puppets are manipulated by one lead artist, the Hayali, who may have one or more apprentice-assistants who are learning the craft by helping to create the tasvirs and accompanying the action with music. Once played widely at coffeehouses, gardens, and public squares, especially during the holy month of Ramazan, as well as during circumcision feasts, Karagöz is found today mostly in performance halls, schools and malls in larger cities where it still draws audiences. The traditional theatre strengthens a sense of cultural identity while bringing people closer together through entertainment.
Decision 4.COM 13.73
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Karagöz is recognized and valued for its playful way of transmitting community cultural values and identity through stimulating the spectator’s imagination; it incorporates diverse forms of art such as poetry, narration, farce, music and dance;
- R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to increasing visibility and awareness of this distinctive theatre at the local, national and international level, creating social and cultural dialogue among other traditional shadow theatre practitioners worldwide, opening new horizons for cultural diversity and promoting respect among individuals;
- R.3: The local and national authorities, as well as committed practitioners and NGOs, have elaborated important measures to safeguard Karagöz, in particular through training programmes in schools and universities, the creation of information and documentation centres, and the organization of festivals;
- R.4: The element has been nominated through a process that involved artists, experts, representatives of related groups and institutions that came together for the identification of safeguarding measures and the elaboration of the file, and their free, prior and informed consent has been given in writing;
- R.5: The element is included in the Turkish National Inventory for Intangible Cultural Heritage, established under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
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