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[LifeStyle] Araguz is a traditional phenomenon and a tool for shaping social awareness in Turkey


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ISTANBUL - "Shadow Fantasy" or "Araguz" is a satirical Turkish folk art that represents one of the early forms of theatre. Its characters infiltrate from the depths of history to draw smiles on faces and fill hearts with joy, through a fun interactive dialogue.


أحد مشاهد عرض الأراجوز لمياء أحمد - اسطنبول


Araguz is one of the most important pillars of traditional Turkish culture rooted in the collective memory of individuals, which still plays a leading role in shaping society's consciousness. It aims to address daily life matters and discuss general issues in a humorous way that prompts the masses to laugh at their concerns, mixing irony with a lot of information and guidance, which makes it one of the most important means of education.

What are the origins of "aragos"?
The origin of the shadow theater is still a matter of great controversy, as there is no accurate information about the beginning of its appearance, and some believe that its origin is Egyptian or Gypsy, and it is common that its first appearance was in the countries of Southeast Asia: such as China, Indonesia and the island of Java, then it moved to the Mongols from China, and from Then the Turks brought it with them after their migration to Anatolia since the 16th century.

There are indications that its origins are Turkish, as the word "Aragöz" is derived from the Turkish word "Karagöz", which is a compound of two words, meaning black eye, to denote a dark outlook on life.


يستخدم في عرض الاراجوز التقليدي الدف ذي الأجراس والمزمار لمياء أحمد - اسطنبول


Karagoz is one of the important figures in Turkish shadow art, and he is the protagonist of it. Emin Taşdemir, a playwright and artist specializing in this art, says: "It is believed that the Araguz began in the Turkish city of Bursa, and I can be certain that it was an Ottoman invention, as the events of the original story take place in an Ottoman city."

Lamya Ahmed - Istanbul
In the traditional Alarajouz show, a tambourine with bells and a flute is used (the island)
Harmony and humor
And "Aragoz" is a kind of verbal presentation, based on the use of two-dimensional drawings, made of colored translucent leather, moved with the help of sticks, behind a white screen, called the curtain of imagination or a mirror, on which concentrated lighting is shed, in a dark environment.

Characters appear accompanied by local music and dances. Unity is achieved in the performance by harmonizing words, music, dance, and photographic movements, and deals with themes by emphasizing humorous elements, double meanings, exaggerations, and imitations.

Two musical instruments are usually used in the show: the oboe and the tambourine, and different music is played at the beginning of each scene, helping the audience to know the origins of the new characters who joined the scene.

Creativity and imagination
This type of art provides ample space for creativity and a fertile atmosphere for imagination, with great freedom in drafting texts, facilitated by the simplicity of the tools used, which are not possible in modern theater. In his interview with "Al-Jazeera Net", Taşdemir says: "With very simple equipment, we can send characters into space and make them roam in it. There is nothing realistic. We are doing a show that helps stimulate the audience's imagination."


بقول الحالم بتحريك الدمى ومساعده بضرب الدف لمياء أحمد - اسطنبول


The script is characterized by taking into account the participation of the audience, as the audience participates in the dialogue, in addition to the low cost, as the number of representatives is few, and their needs are simple and inexpensive.

By saying the dreamer by moving the puppets and his assistant by hitting the tambourine, Lamia Ahmed - Istanbul
The puppeteer is called in Turkish "imaginative", meaning the dreamer, and when he moves the puppets, his assistant hits the tambourine (Al Jazeera)
The show is performed by one person who plays all the roles, regardless of the number of characters. He moves the puppets, performs different voices and dialects, asks and answers, plays and sings, and has an assistant who passes the instruments, and sometimes hits the tambourine.

In Turkish, the puppeteer is called "Hayali", meaning the dreamer, "because he dreams and reflects his dreams on the curtain of imagination, to communicate with the audience," says Kamil Demir, playwright and puppeteer.

The puppeteers are multi-talented artists. They are writers, directors, musicians and actors at the same time. They sing and play on their own, make their own drawings, and can change the text of plays and improvise, according to the audience.


تصنع الرسومات من الجلد الطبيهي وتلون بصبغات طبيعية لمياء أحمد - اسطنبول


The traditional way to learn the profession is to become an apprentice to a teacher or artist. There are no special institutes for teaching the art of "aragoz", and often one starts the profession as an assistant and remains an apprentice for years.

The drawings are made of natural leather and colored with natural dyes by Lamia Ahmed - Istanbul
The graphics are made of natural leather and colored with natural dyes (Al-Jazeera)
making dolls
The "Aragoz" characters are metaphorically called puppets, when in reality they are two-dimensional drawings. The manufacture of "Araguz" dolls is a traditional handicraft, as the puppeteer makes his own drawings by hand, in accordance with the texts he composes.

The dolls are made of translucent skins, such as the skins of camels, calves, goats, etc., and they are soaked in water for two days, until the hair falls out of them, and the extremely hot days are chosen for that.

Then the hair is scraped off with a knife, and the skin is again soaked in water for 5-6 days, changing the water morning and evening. Then it is dried in the shade so that it does not turn black.

Drawings are drawn on paper first, then applied to the skin, cut with a special knife, then colored with natural dyes extracted from plants, and the pieces are connected by means of certain threads, then stirring sticks are installed, so that the drawings are ready for display.

The making of Alarajouz dolls is one of the traditional handicrafts of Lamia Ahmed - Istanbul
Making Aragoz dolls is one of the traditional handicrafts in Turkey (Al-Jazeera)
changes and efforts
In ancient times, the Turkish shadow play was often shown to adults, and it developed into a source of social and political criticism. The plays were presented in palaces and private environments, and then expanded with the passage of time and were shown in cafes and public parks.

With social and economic changes, and the entry of Western theater into Turkey in the 19th century, interest in "Araguz" performances decreased, and the most difficult thing facing the artist was to persuade the various parties to hold performances with them.

The Turkish government seeks to encourage traditional arts, including the "Araguz". The Ministry of Culture and Tourism made effective efforts to revive this art and sponsor its performances, and cooperated with the "Araguz Association" to provide lessons at the University of Rumali-Istanbul, and to provide training courses. The Directorate of Fine Arts also supports traditional theater and sponsors the art of "Araguz".

Some enthusiasts are working on individual efforts to develop it, identify the needs of the public, and write new texts, which led to its revival. Demir told Al-Jazeera Net, "The Ottoman Empire was distinguished by its richness and plurality of population. The stories were inspired by this richness. The existing structure differed a lot, so we invent new texts and plays that arouse interest."

With these efforts, which were crowned with success, the "Araguz" plays are now shown in theaters, schools, festivals, celebrations, media channels, and on Ramadan occasions, special days, and circumcision ceremonies.

Dreamer and his assistant during the performance of Lamia Ahmed - Istanbul
"The Dreamer" and his assistant during the performance (Al-Jazeera)
Aragos for children
Recently, the demand for "Araguz" plays has increased in Turkey, especially among children who enjoy the atmosphere of humor and fun, and interact with it with enthusiasm.

Public institutions such as schools and municipalities are organizing free shows for children, as a source of joy, entertainment and education. In her interview with "Al-Jazeera Net", Laila Shabat says: "I brought my daughter to the show today to enjoy and learn more about our history. It is an interesting show that we attend whenever we have the opportunity."

And "Araguz" in Turkey has become an educational framework that combines tradition and modernity, presenting performances that benefit the child, strengthening his social communication skills through interactive dialogues, using it as an effective educational tool, and linking the new generation with heritage.

In this context, Ozlam Polat told Al-Jazeera Net: "I brought my son to attend the play, to learn more about traditions and increase his connection to the culture and history of our country."

Specialists created texts suitable for children on a variety of topics, including meaningful fictional stories and historical stories. As for the majority of her stories, they are daily events and quarrels that take place between different people in an educational and entertaining way.




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