When I was researching for the book, I read an article in the Cyprus Airways in flight magazine Sun Jet, about shadow puppets. The article was based around a man whose father used to travel around Cyprus with his shadow puppet theatre. The son wanted to set up a museum with all the puppets and paraphernalia that he had inherited. I found this article fascinating and wanted to contact the man and find out more but try as I might I couldn’t find anyone who knew him. When I visited the Handicraft Centre in Lefkosia I met Marina Michael who had made some of her own shadow puppets and had actually met the man I was seeking but she had no contact information unfortunately. In fact no one seemed to know anyone who performed shadow puppetry anymore which I found really sad.
In Cyprus, Karaghiozis, the main character of the plays, has the same reputation as Punch and Judy in the UK with the same sort of violence included in the plays, of which children are so gleefully appreciative. He even has a similarly exaggerated proboscis just like Punch.
My cousin Michael remembers fondly when the puppet show used to come to the village, all the children would gather round the puppet master who would accept whatever currency they offered, usually it would take the form of food and this would supply the puppeteer with his supper. Children would make their own Karaghiozis characters at home to play out their own shows once the puppeteer had left.
It is thought that shadow puppets came to Cyprus in the 18th or 19th century from Asia Minor or Turkey playing out the stories of Karaghiozis and travelled to Greece where they were also very popular. But the history is shrouded in mystery. I had heard that a museum was going to be set up near the Famagusta gate in the re-vitalised Chrysaliniotissa district of Lefkosia but again I couldn’t find out any more when I went to look…. until today. I had decided to do a little post on shadow puppets and after going online to see what I could find I discovered an article in the Cyprus Mail archives about the opening of the elusive museum in late 2011. It is a satellite of the Leventis Museum and is housed in The House of Dali previously occupied by the son of a puppeteer. In the true tradition of the puppet theatre there are workshops where children can create their own Karaghiozis characters as well as an amphitheatre where the plays are performed. Interestingly contemporary puppeteers will also be showcased.
So finally I will be able to see this museum when I visit next. Here is the address if you are interested and in the vicinity:-
Shadow Theatre Municipal Museum
53 Ammochostos Street, Nicosia, Tel: 22 661475