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Theater & Cinema

Turkish theater is thought to have originated from the popular Karagöz shadow plays, a cross between moralistic Punch and Judy and the slapstick Laurel and Hardy. It then developed along an oral tradition, with plays performed in public places, such as coffee houses and gardens, exclusively by male actors. Atatürk gave great importance to the arts, and actively encouraged theater, music and ballet, prompting the foundation of many state institutions. Turkey today boasts a thriving arts scene, with highly professional theater, opera and ballet companies, as well as a flourishing film industry. The country enjoys numerous arts festivals throughout the year, the most prestigious of which is the Istanbul Film Festival.

Plastic Arts

Until the18th century, painting in Turkey was mainly in the for of miniatures, usually linked to books in the form of manuscript illustration. In the 18th century, trends shifted towards oil painting, beginning with murals. Thereafter, under European inspiration, painting courses were introduced in military schools. The first Turkish painters were therefore military people who, respecting the Islamic tradition which bars representation of the human face, focused at first on landscapes. The modernization of Turkish painting, including representation of the human figure, started with the founding of the Academy of Arts under the direction of Osman Hamdi Bey, one of the great names in Turkish painting. In 1923, followed by many other such schools. Art exhibitions in Turkey's cities multiplied, more people started to acquire paintings and banks and companies began investing in art.


Literature has long been an important component of Turkish cultural life, reflecting the history of the people, their legends, their mysticism, and the political and social changes that affected this land throughout its long history. The oldest literary legacy of the pre-Islamic period are the Orhon inscriptions in northern Mongolia, written in 735 on two large stones in honor of a Turkish king and his brother. During the Ottoman period, the prevailing literary form was poetry, the dominant dialect was Anatolian or Ottoman, and the main subject beauty and romance. The Ottoman Divan literature was highly influenced by Persian culture and written in a dialect which combined Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Separate from the aristocratic Divan literature, folk literature continued to dominate Anatolia where troubadour-like poets celebrated nature, love and God in simple Turkish language. Towards the 20th century, the language of Turkish literature became simpler and more political and social in substance. The great and politically controversial poet, Nazim Hikmet, inspired by the Russian poet Mayakowski, introduced free verse in the late 1930s.
Nowadays, the irrefutable master of the Turkish popular novel is Yasar Kemal, with his authentic, colorful and forceful description of Anatolian life. Young Turkish writers tend to go beyond the usual social issues, preferring to tackle problems such as feminism and aspects of the East-West dichotomy which continues to fascinate Turkish intellectuals. Some of the rising stars of contemporary Turkish literature are: Orhan Pamuk, Nedim Gursel, Ahmet Altan and Pinar Kur.

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