Some say that shadow puppet theatre began in the palaces of Ottoman sultans, or as early as the 14th century. The original characters are said to have been based on two real men from the early 14th century, who amused people with their humorous actions. Once they were gone, they were so badly missed that a man named Seyh Kusteri created images of them from camel hide and used them to give puppet shows.

Turkish shadow puppets are made from camel or buffalo hide, which is scraped until it is semi-transparent, and then painted. A curtain known as the ayna was hung and an oil lamp was placed behind the puppets, casting their shadows upon the curtain. The two central characters in practically all Turkish shadow puppet plays were Karagoz and Hacivat. The story normally involved an argument and fight between the two. The puppets were manipulated by a single puppeteer, known as a Karagozcu, Hayali or Hayalbaz. Songs are provided by a second member of the te am, known as the yardak.

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