Karagkiozis Shadow Theatre

Shadow theatre is a theatrical performance (either comic or dramatic) enacted by a master puppeteer (karagkiozopaichtis) and his assistants, who manipulate flat articulated cut-out figures (shadow puppets) and scenographic effects aided by the interplay of light and shadow, dialogues, dances and songs.
A performance of Greek shadow theatre constitutes an exceptionally artful combination of many expressive means. The scenarios draw their inspiration from a wide range of sources: stories form everyday life, narratives influenced by mythology, fairy tales, legends or traditions, historical or heroic works, but also works that have been motivated by world art (theatre, cinema, literature etc.). These scenarios (approximately 600 have been documented, not including their variations) are anchored in a core idea leaving plenty of room for improvisation.
The main character, Karagkiozis, is a shabby and famished man, ugly, illiterate and penniless, but at the same time good-natured, cunning and defiant. Other characters are Hadjiavatis (cajoler and compromising, who always maintains good relations with authority and often tries to help his friend Karagkiozis), Kollitiris, Kopritis or Svouras or Scorpios and Mpirikokos or Mirikogkos or Pitsikokos (Karagkiozis’ three sons who imitate their father’s trickery and knavery), Aglaia or Karagkiozaina (Karagkiozis’ wife, his life partner in poverty, but not in mischief), Sior-Dionysios or Nionios (a courteous, downfallen aristocrat from Zakynthos), Barbayorgos (Karagkiozis’ uncle, who represents the noble and brave Greek man who does not mince words even when it comes to his own nephew), Stavrakas (who pretends to be a spiv – mangkas, but deep down is a coward), Solomon (a wealthy Jewish merchant), Morphonios (a conceited and love-struck wimp), Pashopoula, Vezyropoula or Beopoula (daughter of the Pasha, the Vizier or the Bey respectively), Pasha or Vizier (who represents authority) and Veligkekas or Dervenagas or Peponias (a person who enforces obedience to authority).
There are many other characters that appear or parade behind the white screen (berdès), depending on the needs of each play, which are associated either with a specific performance or mythical and historical figures. Moreover, various animals, a large number of scenographic devices as well as a range of scenery sets are involved. Normally a skilful Karagkiozis puppeteer is in possession of more than 1.000 puppets. The diversity of the characters and their ethno-local dimension endow the spectacle with a multicultural dimension. The music, either live or recorded, also plays a pivotal role.
The person who contributed above all others to the integration of shadow theatre into the local tradition in Greece was the cantor from Patras, Dimitrios Sardounis, alias Mimaros, who imparted to Karagkiozis some of his main attributes. With these changes the spectacle acquired not only a Greek character, since it was associated with the Greek history and tradition, but was transformed into a popular theatre intended for families.
Until the advent of cinema and television the art of shadow theatre had a very large audience that participated actively in the performances and had a say in the way the stories were developed, thus turning shadow theatre into a popular creation. Later, it was associated with very young people, was introduced into schools and, through television mainly, changed into a show for children. However, over the last years adult audience is gradually attracted to Karagkiozis.
The growing interest of the scientific community in Karagkiozis has contributed to the growing popularity of shadow theatre, since during the past years its study has been intensified. The influence of shadow theatre is manifest in various ways not only in neo-Hellenic comedy, but generally in modern cultural creation.


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Name: Shadow theatre

Other name(s): Karagiozis ( Καραγκιόζης – from the name of the main character)

Identity [2]: a folk theatre show, involving the movement of jointed black-and-white and opaque coloured drawn puppets (figures) behind a white screen, through the use of light and shadow, dialogue and music, which makes full use of all possible stimuli, thus integrating it in a symbolic microcosm which is part of folk culture.

ICH Domain 

• Oral traditions and expressions: the performance dialogues are preserved and passed on orally. The songs of the performances are also part of folk tradition and are also passed on orally.

• Performing arts: the spectacle has a theatrical structure. The figures impersonate specific characters in specific roles. There are repeated motifs which remain, irrespectively of the story (one such example is the “conversation” between Karagiozis and his children, which is frequently presented as an introduction to the performances). The puppet figure may move in dance, while the theme is announced through specific songs from traditional music repertoire.

• Social practices – rituals – festive events: the performance is given by the puppeteer – Karagiozopaiktis [καραγκιοζοπαίκτης] – and his assistants. The audience also participates actively, as it co-formulates and co-creates the show. This participation consists of: (a) the active and complete rejection of some poor, unsuccessful performance; (b) the co-creation of scripts and jokes. Furthermore, the puppeteer is updated on daily life and current events, adding his own comments on them. The performance continuously incorporates elements from political events, everyday life, big events, historical tradition and mythology. While drawing material from the vast range of cultural tradition, instances of events or customs are frequently included, thus recording in a dramatic or grotesque manner ritual elements or features from folk events. A basic pattern of expression is “Carnival reversals” [4].

• Traditional craftsmanship: the traditional technique for crafting the puppets is admittedly masterful, as it combines folk drawing with the technique for processing cardboard (embossed cardboard lined with rice-paper), leather or gel materials. This technique includes a number of innovations and/or patents, gradually introduced over the years by the puppeteers to advance their work.

Location (Administrative district, prefecture, municipality):

Performances of the Greek shadow-puppet theatre are held all over Greece, as well as abroad, where Karagiozi puppeteers are frequently invited. Shows are held in both closed and open-air spaces, in theatres, parks, schools, squares, museums, cafes, cultural spaces, home but also on television.

Key words:
Folk theatre, political and social satire, social folk models, popular satire, craftsman, folk art, folk culture.


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Faced with the great impact created by their performances throughout Greece in the years between the two wars, Greek Karagiozi puppeteers founded their first professional association. Since then, numerous associations and societies have been founded.

The aim of the Associations is to support the profession, to safeguard and promote the art of shadow-puppet theatre, and to encourage and support young professionals.

  1. Person. Group, Organization

There are a large number of contemporary Greek shadow-puppet theatre companies active both within Greece and abroad, giving hundreds of performances annually, in an effort to meet the demands of young and adult audiences.

A vast number of audio- and video-recorded shadow-puppet theatrical performances can be found on the market, in the form of vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, online, etc. There are also numerous collections of printed versions of performances that belong to libraries, private archives and individual collectors.

The Panhellenic Association of Shadow Theatre is the oldest collective organization of Karagiozi puppeteers. It was founded in 1925 and its statute was amended in 1988. It includes most professional shadow-puppet players.

Panhellenic Association of Shadow Theatre [Πανελλήνιο Σωματείο του Θεάτρου Σκιών – Panhellinio Somateio toy Theatrou Skion]

Identity: Association
Headquarters/location: Athens
Address: George 6,
Postcode 10677, Athens
Tel.: 210 4616664-6977357493
email: somateiokaragkiozh@gmail.com

url/ site web: www.karagkiozis.com

Digital magazine: http://www.karagkiozis.com/somateio/

Person(s) in charge: Panos Kapetanidis
Capacity: President of the Association
Address: George 6, Postcode
10677, Athens
Tel.: 210 4616664 – 6977357493
e-mail: panoskap@hotmail.com

Pan-European Association of Shadow-Puppet Theatre [Πανευρωπαϊκό Σωματείο Θεάτρου Σκιών – Panevropaiko Somateio Theatrou Skion]

Identity: Association
Headquarters/ Location: Athens
Address: Dodekanisou 37, Agioi Anargyroi, Anakasa
Postcode: 13562
Person(s) in charge: Thanassis & Kostas Spyropoulos
Capacity: Responsible for the Association
Tel.: +302102613501 +306943535230
Ε-mail: Margaritaraki_21@hotmail.com

E-mail: info@Karagiozis Spiropoulou.gr

Address: Lamprinis & Ersis 9, Galatsi, (behind St. Andreas’ Church), 111 46
Tel.: +30 210 26 29 046 Mobile: +30 6932 33 09 42, +30 6943 53 52 30
E-mail: info@KaragiozisSpiropoulou.gr


Specific information on the element:

Person(s) in charge

1. Name: Athos Danelis
Capacity: Karagiozi puppeteer-Shadow theatre Researcher
Address: Ag. Sofias 7, N. Psychiko, Postcode 15451
Tel.: 210 6728656, 6944691819,
e-mail: athosdanellis@gmail.com

2. Name: Maria Fakiola
Capacity: Member of Staff, Ministry of Culture and Sports,
Social Anthropologist, PhD
Address: Ermou 17, Athens
Postcode 10563
Tel.: 2103240645, Fax: 2103240388, e-mail: mfakiola@culture.gr


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  1. Description: 

Shadow-puppet theatre is a theatrical performance (comic or dramatic) performed by a “master” [«μάστορας» – Karagiozi puppeteer] and his assistants; the performance makes use of figures and stage effects through the interplay between light and shadow, dialogue, dance and songs.

     2. Detailed description:

A Greek shadow-puppet theatre performance is a brilliant combination of a variety of means of expression. The blend of stories and characters, the music, the characteristic costumes of each figure, the particular articulation and accent, the language effects and idioms, the distortions in voice and grammatical form, the mannerisms and puns, are some of the elements creating the essence of the performance the – over and above the topic and the text itself.

The audience itself, with its presence, plays the role of catalyst, as it acts as co-creator of the performance. This co-creation was an integral part of every performance in the past, before they started being broadcast on radio and television channels, when there was no longer any physical proximity between audience and puppeteer.

The story plots were the outcome of a broad variety of stimuli: stories from everyday life, stories influenced by mythology, fairy tales, legends or traditions, historic or heroic stories, but also stories inspired by world art (theatre, cinema, literature, etc.). These screenplays have a basic framework, at the same time still allowing the artist plenty of leeway for improvisation. Over the last years, with the growth in popularity of cinema and television, as well as the prevalence of children’s audiences, the comic character of the shows is more widely-spread, in contrast to the years between the wars and the German Occupation, when dramatic plays were greatly favoured by audiences

The main character, Karagiozis [Καραγκιόζης], is a permanently ravenously hungry type, dressed in rags, ugly, illiterate and destitute, but at the same time kind-hearted, extremely clever and unruly. He reacts to everything around him with an absolutely unconventional behaviour, which highlights the finite character of a seemingly “motionless” and undisturbed “order” of the world. His intervention is always problematic for the ruling class; the outcome is invariably arrived at through surreal and hilarious adventures of carnival reversal. Eventually, order is restored, and what remains is the imprint of popular wisdom, embodied by the cunning, yet always benevolent, protagonist.

Hadziavatis [Χατζηαβάτης] – Karagiozi calls him Hadzadzari [Χατζατζάρη] – is, in a manner of speaking, Karagiozis’ alter ego. He is a flatterer and conformist, always cajoling to maintaini good relations with those in power, but at the same time, a friend to Karagiozi. He frequently tries to help his friend by serving the Pascha (or some other person in power). He invariably into trouble with Karagiozi and his tomfoolery, who, with his anarchist and disobedient spirit disparages him and exposes him to a variety of dangers.

The basic ‘troupe” of the Greek shadow-puppet theatre, besides the two characters of Karagiozis and Hatziavatis, who also have counterparts in the Turkish shadow-puppet theatre, includes a great variety of figures, characteristic not only of contemporary Greek society but also of timeless human behaviours.

These are:

Kollitiris [Κολλητήρης]: Son of Karagiozis. Later, two more child characters were added: Kopritis or Skorpios and Birikokos or Mirikogos or Pitsikokos. The children appear to be copies of their father when it comes to tricks and cunning. Comic performances usually start with Karagiozis “examining” his children’s knowledge on stage, before announcing the play.

Aglaia [Αγλαΐα] or Karagiozaina [Καραγκιόζαινα]: Karagiozis’ wife. She is his partner in poverty, but not in trickery.

Sior-Dionysios [Σιορ-Διονύσιος] or Nionios [Νιόνιος]: a polite, impoverished aristocrat from Zakynthos who, nevertheless, doesn’t think twice about showering people surrounding him with the most imaginative curses. He usually plays the role of a groom-to-be and sometimes demonstrates heroic elements of his character. According to Julio Kaimis, he represents literary Greece. He appears on stage with a series of westernized “embellished” behaviours/ full of “flourish”.

Barbagiorgos [Μπαρμπαγιώργος]: in direct contrast to Sior-Dionysis, he represents the pure, brave Greek. He is presented as invincible and spares nobody. He is an uncouth, kindly highlander, a naïve but courageous country bumpkin, who, on the one hand is not daunted by authority, but at the same time does not approve of his nephew’s swindles. He is huge, extremely strong and courageous. Barbagiorgos has taken it unto himself to heal the multiple traumas and the prestige of the people.

Stavrakas [Σταύρακας]: a pseudo-tough guy, an old-fashioned macho, a profoundly cowardly character.

Solomon [Σολομών]: a wealthy Jewish merchant.

Morfonios [Μορφονιός]: a stuck-up narcissist, a mollycoddle and

Pasopoula [Πασοπούλα], also known as Vezyropoula [Βεζυροπούλα] or
Beopoula [Μπεοπούλα]: the Pasha’s daughter (or, respectively, the Vezir or
Bey’s daughter). A clever woman whom everyone wants to marry. Her voice,
as of all other female characters, is impersonated by the puppeteer.

The Pasha [Πασάς] or Vezir [Βεζίρης]: Authority and power are usually symbolized on stage through the character of the Pasha or Vezir, and his aide Tahir. He is a polite, mildly spoken and generous man, but if necessary, he doesn’t hesitate to show his subjects the harsh aspect of authority.

Veligekas [Βεληγκέκας] or Dervenagas [Δερβέναγας] and Peponias [Πεπόνιας]: these characters represent the police, carrying out the orders of those in authority. Karagiozis gets beaten up by them, but they, in turn, get beaten up by Barbagiorgos, who either steps forward, acting as a buffer to save his nephew, or remains completely indifferent to their exercise of power.

There are quite a number of other characters who appear on the screen, depending on the requirements of each play; they may be connected to a specific play, or to mythical or historical characters. There are also quite a number of animals, props and scene settings.

These, however, are the characters which won the approval and love of audiences. At times, puppeteers have attempted to introduce new characters (for example Pipis the Corfiot [Πίπης ο Κερκυραίος], Gerasimos from Cephalonia [Γεράσιμος ο Κεφαλονίτης], etc.), who did not stand up to the audience’s test.

To sum up the multiple functions of the shadow theatre (Kiourtsakis, 1983), we could say that it “entertains and at the same time offers its audience the ability to co-create, revive and preserve a group ethos”.


  1. Location and means for performing or practicing the ICH element

Space connected to the performance/realization of the ICH element.

All things considered, any permanent space for a puppet theatre performance has requirements similar to those found in theatre spaces (namely, box-office, reception area, stage/scene with all necessary equipment, etc). Performances are also held in every imaginable space: open public or private spaces (squares, parking lots, backyards, etc.) and several indoor spaces (such as theatres, cinema, societies, cafes, schools, homes).

With the spread of the cinema, Karagiozis faded in popularity as a spectacle, while with the introduction of television to Greek society, the show’s basic operations changed, as it lost, to a great extent, the possibility of offering social criticism; at the same time, its presence in schools and education grew. In recent years, interest in performances has grown, since a large number of new puppeteers have entered the field (with the pros and cons that this entails in an art with strict forms). It is worth noting that Karagiozi performances take place in urban areas with a strong character of neighbourhoods as leisure and entertainment hubs (in Athens: Metaxourgeio, Votanikos). An equally interesting aspect appears to be the return, once again, of adult audiences to the spectacle, as they appear to be rediscovering their social roots.

Equipment – accessories (such as tools, utensils, costumes, etc) used in the preparation and performance of the ICH element.

There is a large number and variety of accessories and fittings used for shadow-puppet theatre performances in permanent theatres, but fewer and simpler items in the case of travelling theatres or outdoor performances, for easier transport. The equipment consists of the screen or berde [μπερντέ], formed from a white sheet measuring 4-6 metres wide and 1.60 metres high, the scene sets and the puppet figures. The scene sets consist of Karagiozis’ hut on the far left, with the Pasha’s palace [serayi – σεράι] on the right. The scene set usually changes only once during the performance but shows often have different scenes. Since 1927, the immediate change of scene sets can be achieved by the use of two parallel screens which can be raised and lowered.

An expert Karagioz puppeteer owns more than 1,000 figures. Each figure consists of approximately 3-4 pieces. The more movements a figure makes (dance, large steps, particular movements), the more pieces it consists of. The figures are made of cardboard, painted leather or cellophane. The figures are not just persons, but also animals, mythical monsters, objects (furniture, guns, all sort of objects), shapes or scenes like plants, landscapes, buildings, etc. During the performance, the required “tools” («εργαλεία», as they are called in the puppeteers’ jargon), are laid out behind the puppeteer, to be used when he needs them.

The screen is lit by electric light (classic incandescent bulbs or – rarely – neon lights), whereas in the past burners or acetylene lamps were used.

There may be a live band beside the screen, which performs the play’s music. If there is no live band, audio recordings of the songs may be used. The music plays a vital role, being part of the performance. It presents the characters and also expresses emotions and behaviours. The posters for the performances are also important artistic creations.

 4. Process of transmission of the ICH element from one generation to the next

Description of the process

The art of shadow-puppet theatre was transmitted to younger generations through attending performances, and particularly with apprentices watching performance by a Karagiozis puppeteer. This process required a particular relation, of respect and acceptance, and started with an apprenticeship beside the “master”. To begin with, the apprentice participated as a spectator, then as an assistant. The puppeteer would allow someone to watch his performance on the screen, and usually selected his assistants himself; the main criterion was the passion and earnestness – meraki – the young candidate showed.

In time, the assistant would learn the tricks of the trade, as an apprentice beside the “master”. This apprenticeship was not always easy, while frequently it is described as a form of “theft” of the master’s technique, which he in some cases he simply tolerated.

Undertaking full responsibility for the performance would fall on the assistant, quite often as a result of a chance occurrence, whereby the puppeteer was unable to fulfill his obligations and his assistant would have to take over. The acceptance or not of the new person by the audience, would establish him in the field.

In recent years, especially with the appearance of shadow-puppet theatre on television, but also in educational settings (at all three levels), learning about shadow-puppet theatre at a first level, is also achieved through imitating the television or online puppeteer, as well as through the use of educational material produced by museums or public cultural bodies (Museum of Greek Folk Art and Greek Folk Musical Instruments – Fivos Anoyianakis Collection, Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation (PFF) – and the Directorate of Modern Greek Cultural Reserve and Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Sports), schools and cultural institutions of Municipalities and Communities (Cultural Societies, etc.). The presence of Karagiozis online is of the utmost importance, not only because users of any age and social background can be reached, but also because it contributes towards further updating, connection and cooperation between Karagiozi puppeteers. This recognition and the introduction of shadow-puppet theatre in education have led to the establishment of a new generation of shadow-puppeteers, which will hail a new spirit in this art.

On an annual basis, shadow-puppet theatre festivals take place in Athens, at the Spathareio Museum, on Strefi Hill, in Nea Ionia and elsewhere. In recent years, an international festival was held in Patras, while festivals held at regular intervals in many areas of the country, also play an important role. Significant events also take place in a number of countries abroad.

Manners and duration of learning/ apprenticeship/ initiation

The length of time required for “initiation” depends on the enthusiasm of each puppeteer and on external circumstances. The main agents of transmission are, primarily, the Karagiozi puppeteers themselves, as well as the means by which they promote their work individually or through their Associations: personal connections, social media, festivals, the press, etc. Secondarily, it is achieved through museums, schools, universities, municipalities, cultural societies, as well as television.

The increasingly growing interest of the scientific community also contributes towards the spread of shadow-puppet theatre, since research on Karagiozis has intensified in recent years, ιn a number of scientific fields (folklore, anthropology, theatre studies, history, visual arts, etc.).

Furthermore, in recent years, numerous workshops, symposia and professional conferences have taken place on the subject of shadow-puppet theatre.

Agents for transmission

Important agents for the recognition, preservation and transmission of shadow theatre, besides the Associations, are museums, municipalities and other cultural institutions, which own important archives and collections. In addition, many of them organize seminars and performances on the Greek shadow-puppet theatre.

In recent years, the element has been included in formal curricula of relevant university faculties, as it has received greater recognized and there has been a shift in acceptance, both by the general public and by government bodies.

The most important entities with data on shadow-puppet theatre are the following:

Archives and Collections in Museums, Municipalities, Foundations

• Archive of the Greek Shadow Theatre [Αρχείο Ελληνικού Θεάτρου Σκιών -Archeio Ellinikou Theatrou Skion]

Person in charge: Athos Danellis
Address: Ag. Sofias 7, N. Psychico
Tel.: 210 6728656
E-mail: arxeio.th.s@gmail.com

• ERT (Greek Radio and Television)

They possess an extremely important archive from television and radio. The archive includes plays by the most important Karagiozi puppeteers of the post-political transition period (1974 to the present), which have been recorded at ERT with a live audience.

Address: Mesogeion 136 & Katechaki, Athens, Postcode 11527
Tel.: +30 210 6066000, Email: info@ert.gr

  • Society for Macedonian Studies [Εταιρία Μακεδονικών Σπουδών – Etairia Makedonikon Spoudon]
Ethnikis Amynis 4, Postcode 5462, Thessaloniki
Tel. 2310 271 195, FAX. 2310 271 501

• Greek Literary and Historical Archive [Ελληνικό Λογοτεχνικό και Ιστορικό Αρχείο – Elliniko Kogotechniko kai Istoriko Archeio]

They own one of the most important collections, both in Athens and Thessaloniki
Contact Details:
Address: Agiou Andrea 5, Athens, 10556

Tel.: 210-3211149, Fax: 210 -3213667

E-mail: info@elia.org.gr , Ιστοσελίδα: http://www.elia.org.gr/default.fds?langid=1

Thessaloniki Address: Vasilissis Olgas 108, Villa Kapandji, P.O.Box 50742, 54014
Tel.: 2310 295176 / 2310 853380, Fax: 2310 853380, Email: eliathes@miet.gr

• Institute of Mediterranean Studies [Ινστιτούτο Μεσογειακών Σπουδών – Institouto Mesogeiakon Spoudon]

They possess a series of notebooks belonging to the Karagiozi puppeteer Vasilaros (Vasileios Andrikopoulos) [6], a gift by professors Grigoris Sifakis and Theodoros Hatzipantazis.

Melissinou & N. Foka 130, 74100 Rethymno, Crete

Tel.: 28310 25146 & 56627, Fax: 28310 25810, E-mail: gaia@ims.forth.gr


• Stemnitsa Folklore Museum [Λαογραφικό Μουσείο Στεμνίτσας – Laografiko Mouseio Stemnitsas]

There is a permanent exhibition with figures by Lampros Karadimas
Postcode 22 024, Stemnitsa, Arcadia
Fax: 210/92.41.173, Tel.: 27950/81 252

Athens Offices, Kallisperi 15, 10072,
Tel.: // τηλ.: 210- 9223925)

• Museum of Greek Folk Art and Greek Folk Musical Instruments – Fivos
Anoyanakis Collection [Μουσείο Ελληνικής Λαϊκής Τέχνης και Ελληνικών Λαϊκών Μουσικών Οργάνων-Συλλογή Φοίβου Ανωγειανάκη – Mouseio Ellinikis Laikis Technis kai Ellhnikon Laikon Mousikon Organos – Syllogi Fivou Anogeianaki]

The collection of the Museum of Greek Folk Art is one of the most important and representative collections of shadow theatre plays, including puppet figures, posters and scene sets.

Address: Thespidos 8, Athens 10558

Tel.: +30 210 32 45957, +30 210 32 13 018, Fax: +30 210 32 26 979

http://www.melt.gr, Email: melt@culture.gr

• Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation [Πελοποννησιακό Λαογραφικό Ίδρυμα – Peloponnisiako Laografiko Idryma]

The Children’s Museum of the Foundation used to house a permanent exhibition. Following its refurbishment, it will include a collection with figures and scene sets of well-known Karagiozi puppeteers, such as Charidimos, Kouzaros, Kareklas, Idalia, etc.

Vas. Alexandrou 1, 21100 Nauplion
Fax : 27520/ 27 960, Tel.: 27520/ 28 379, e-mail : pff@otenet.gr ,
Webpage: www.pli.gr

• Spathareio Museum of Shadow Theatre of the Municipaliti of Amarousion
[Σπαθάρειο Μουσείο Θεάτρου Σκιών Δήμου Αμαρουσίου – Spathareio Mouseio Theatrou Skion Dimou Amarousiou ]

Mesogeion & Voreiou Ipeirou 27, Marousi
Tel.: +302106127245, Fax: +302106127253,
e-mail: spathario@yahoo.com
• Spyropouleio Museum of Shadow Theatre [Σπυροπούλειο Μουσείο Θεάτρου Σκιών – Spyropouleio Mouseio Theatrou Skion]

Address: Dodekanisou 37, Agioi Anargyroi – Anakasa, Attiki, 13562

• Teloglio Arts Foundation AUTh [Τελλόγλειο Ίδρυμα Τεχνών ΑΠΘ – Tellogleio Idryma Technon]

Address: Agiou Dimitriou, Thessaloniki 54636
Tel.: 231 024 7111, Fax: 2310 991610
teloglion@teloglion.gr . http://www.teloglion.gr/el

One of the most significant databases on Greek shadow-puppet theatre belongs to the Centre of Byzantine, Modern Greek and Cypriot Studies of the University of Granada in Spain. Significant data can also be found on the websites of the British Museum and Harvard University. There are also archives and collections in a number of regions In Germany, in France, In Moscow, as well as in small museums in the United States and Australia:

• Centre of Byzantine, Modern Greek and Cypriot Studies – University of Granada (Spain)


• British Museum

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx? objectId=670513&partId=1


The Whitman/Rinvolucri collection is housed in the Archives of Harvard College Library Το Χάρβαρντ έχει στα αρχεία του τη συλλογή Whitman/Rinvolucri. http://library.harvard.edu/whitmanrin

The presence of shadow-puppet theatre in Municipalities is of great importance, as, besides the active and dynamic promotion of the element, some of them possess valuable archives and collections, particularly those Municipalities where great Karagiozi puppeteers originate from:

• Municipality of Patras

The Municipal Art Gallery of Patras [Δημοτική Πινακοθήκη – Dimotiki Pinakothiki] has archival material on shadow-puppet theatre of great importance, as well as video recordings, photographs, publications from the international festivals and from shadow-puppet theatre competitions which took place in Patras.

Person in charge: Gianna Panagopoulou

Address: Akti Dymaion 50, 26333, Patras (1st fl.)
Tel.: 2610 390937, Fax: 2610 390939, Email: info@patrasculture.gr

• Fplklore Museum of the Municipality of Ilion [Λαογραφικό Μουσείο του Δήμου Ιλίου – Laografiko Mouseio tou Dimou Iliou]

It includes a permanent shadow theatre exhibition.

Address: Kalchou 53, 131 22 Ilion, Tel.: 210 2690021

• “Melina” Cultural Centre of Athens Municipality [Πολιτιστικό Κέντρο του Δήμου Αθηναίων «Μελίνα» – Politistiko Kentro tou Dimou Athinaion “Melina”]

It includes a workshop and the “Charidimos” [«Χαρίδημος»] shadow theatre Museum.
Address: Herakleidon 66 & Thessalonikis, Thision, Postcode 11851, Metro Station: Kerameikos
Tel.: 210 3452150

Besides those mentioned above, collections are held by a number of other Municipalities (such as Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Agia Varvara, etc.).

Radio and Television Broadcasting

The appearance of shadow theatre and Karagiozi puppeteers on radio and television is of great importance. Ever since the beginnings of Greek state television and radio broadcasts, shows with live or recorded performances of shadow-puppet theatre became an integral part of daily programmes (series on private television channels were to follow. These series, some of which are re-broadcast until now, featured well-known veteran Karagiozi players, such as Eugenios Spatharis, Panayotis Michopoulos, Manthos Athineos, Thanassis Spyropoulos, Vaggos Yannaros, and others, as well as newer Karagiozi puppeteers.

There has also been special coverage in the press and numerous films and television documentaries, both in stand-alone episodes or in series, such as “The story of Karagiozis” [«Η ιστορία του Καραγκιόζη»], “The Shadows of the Screen” [«Οι Σκιές του Μπερντέ»], “Music for Shadow Theatre” [«Οι μουσικές του Θεάτρου Σκιών»] “Karagiozis” [«Ο Καραγκιόζης»], etc.).

Instruction in Educational Institutions:

 Shadow-puppet theatre has been introduced at all levels of education, from Kindergarten to tertiary education. There are sections on shadow-puppet theatre in schoolbooks at all levels of education, whereas both private and state schools attend performances given by professional Karagiozis puppeteers, frequently more than once a year.

Shadow theatre, as a subject, is taught systematically in drama departments and Teaching faculties at Universities and Technological Educational Institutes (TEI), while in the Drama Studies Department at the Kapodistrian University of Athens, it is a separate semester subject.


The presence and activity of Greek shadow theatre on social media is quite marked, with archival material, video and audio recordings of performances, forums, blogs, websites, digital publications, etc.

The following are the most significant addresses:

http://www.karagkiozis.com/somateio/ : This particular website includes old and new issues of the Association’s magazine, an archive with biographical details of Greek and Cypriot Karagiozi puppeteers, and an abundance of other materials.






Older publishing companies, such as Saravanos, Vouniseas, Gelantalis, Saliveros, Delis, Agyra, Papadimitriou, Daremas, and others, were already, in the early 1920s, publishing series with hundreds of shadow theatre performances in the form of periodicals, as well as patterns for manufacturing figures, comics, etc. These publications are now preserved in collections and archives of the museums and other institutions mentioned above. Publishers like Agyra and Daremas, who are still in operation, have archives of all these pre- and post-war publications and frequently publish collectors’ series with this archival material.


[toggle title=”ΙV. History and genealogy of the ICH element“]

Historical information or local narratives concerning the appearance, duration, presence, and the adaptations or modifications of the ICH element:

Researchers link Karagiozis to religious traditions of the East, since, the spectacle originated as a representation of the world of the dead, especially in Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Bali, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Java. Many also link it to Dervish orders and the Eleusinian mysteries, while, as a comic spectacle, it can be connected to Aristophanian comedy and the Comedia dell’ Arte. As with most elements of intangible cultural heritage, there is some disagreement in relation to its origins. It is certain, however, that whichever cultural tradition it derives from, shadow theatre retains the most basic root of its past, its “magical” liveliness.

There is evidence dating from the early 17th century regarding the presence of shadow theatre in the Balkans. Turks, Jews, Greeks, but also Gipsy Karagiozi puppeteers are mentioned in numerous regions of the Ottoman Empire from –those days. It came to the Greek lands from Turkey and Egypt, bringing many of its characteristics, such as its comic dimension, from the period of the Ottoman Empire. It is an art leading deep into the past, at the same time assimilating many elements of Greek and world traditions. Possessing the expressive means of a spectacle which originally intended to connect the world of the living with the Kingdom of the Dead, it was transformed in Turkish Karagöz into a comic show and was connected to the ancient figure of the jester, common in almost all cultural traditions, yet each with its own code.

In Greece, Karagiozi first appears in Ali Pasha’s sarayi, then in coffee shops in the town of Ioannina, which is when the first “school” is created, called the Epirus school. Having wandered around neighbouring regions, it arrives in Patras around 1880. It is thought that the art of the shadow-puppet theatre was introduced to Greece by Giannis Brachalis, but its Hellenization and absorption by local tradition are nainly due to Mimaros, a stage-name of Dimitrios Sardounis, a cantor from Patras.

Mimaros vested Karagiozi with some of his basic traits: he changed the main characters’ content, introduced the hut and palace as scene sets, used heroic “kleft” [κλέφτικα – kleftika] and popular songs in his performances, modified the themes, the dialogues and the technique; he was inspired by history, the War of Independence, as well as mythology, legends, everydy life, theatre and various popular, or not, readings of that period. He created new carved figures of cardboard, such as Sior-Dionysis, Veligekas and Kollitiris. Together with Giannis Roulias, they co-created Barba-Giorgos (one of the most popular characters). He lengthened the screen and made new scenes with landscapes.

With these modifications, the spectacle acquired not just a Greek character, since it was linked to Greek history and tradition, but was transformed into a popular family show, in contrast to the earlier period when it was considered a vulgar and second-rate spectacle addressed to a uniquely male audience. Mimaros, in contrast to other Karagiozi puppeteers of his time, was literate.

Besides Mimaros, pioneer Karagiozi-puppeteers in the Hellenization of shadow-puppet theatre were Giannis Roulias and Memos Christodoulou. From these three puppeteers an important generation of Karagiozi puppeteers emerged, who gave great impetus to their art.

Besides providing new topics, many puppeteers also contributed technically, in their way, towards the advancement of their art. Gradually, most figures made of hard cardboard ( or, more rarely, of tin) were replaced by transparent ones made with veal or camel leather. In 1918, Dimitris Manolopoulos introduced the Egyptian technique of processing and painting leather, thus, gradually, most figures made of hard cardboard (and, less frequently. of tin) were replaced by transparent coloured ones made of veal or camel leather. In 1924, Lefteris Kelarinopoulos developed the spring and hinge mechanism that allowed the puppets to face both right and left. The dimensions of the screen had got bigger by the early ‘20s and Charilaos introduced his innovative double screen, which could be raised and lowered, offering the possibility of using different scene sets, without requiring a break in the show. Furthermore, new characters were gradually added.

Not only Mimaros, but also the next generations of Karagiozi puppet players following his example (many of whom were his students or students of Roulias’ and Memos’ students) toured around Greece, giving performances with notable success.

The period between the two World Wars – which was a period of growth for shadow-puppet theatre – was when the first recorded plays were published in periodicals, and when the first patterns for figures started being sold in kiosks, which initiated children more easily to the art of Karagiozis. That was a time when shadow puppet theatre flourished all over Greece. Puchner (Puchner, 1989) mentions that in its heyday (between 1900-1930) Karagiozis shadow-puppet theatre entertained a far greater audience than all other theatres combined.

During WWII and the German occupation, Karagiozis would inspire and encourage spectators. That is when many more heroic plays were produced, frequently with contemporary themes, which greatly resonated with the audiences. Particularly during the period of the Occupation, testimonies on the importance of the shadow-puppet theatre are overwhelming, both in comical as well as dramatic performances.

Karagiozis has always been at the heart of big events of Greek life. A characteristic example is from the performance “Karagiozis the Baker”. When Hadziavatis asks his friend, Karagiozis, to recommend a good baker, he advises him to search for a competent one, “amongst the bakers who acquired riches during the war”. A similar example is an intervention by puppeteer Charidimos after the fall of the Junta in 1974. In that show, Karagiozis beats up the dictator Papadopoulos, who appears on the screen in the form of a hare (an associative depiction based on the dictator’s villa in Lagonisi (a placename meaning hare island), announcing emphatically that he had been “saddled with him for seven years”.

Precisely because of this great influence and rapport with its audience, the shadow-puppet theatre was not always liked by the authorities and performers were frequently persecuted. However, although the shadow-puppet theatre had enemies, it also had numerous friends. Many great Greek artists have been influenced by the shadow-puppet theatre and admired the technique, the spirit and the particular skills of these folk artists. In an interview, the theatrical director Karolos Koun talks about the influence of shadow-puppet theatre on his own personal approach to the comedies of Aristophanes. The artists Giannis Tsarouchis and Fotis Kontoglou, the author Giannis Skarimpas, the composer Manos Hatzidakis, and other great artists, refer with emotion and great respect to shadow-puppet theatre and the popular artists who serve it. The choreographer Rallou Manou (Manou, 1987), as well, describes her experience from the play “Cursed Snake” with great enthusiasm. At the play’s rehearsals, besides the actors, the most important artists of those times would drop by.

The influence of shadow-puppet theatre is obvious in a number of ways, not only in modern Greek comedy, but, in general, also in contemporary cultural creation, like painting, music, theatre, cinema and literature. In recent years, the study of this influence has been particularly developed.

Its influence is, furthermore, clearly obvious in daily life, in a number of ways: besides artistic creations, the figures’ presence is marked on everyday objects, confectioneries and other consumer goods.

Shadow-puppet theatre is a living art whose codes, while remaining the same over time, nevertheless evolve and become embedded in the present. In recent years, a new generation of shadow-puppeteers has developed, who have revived adult audiences’ interest in shadow theatre, at the same time retaining audiences of children. This is due to the artists’ ability to ensure their plays are embedded in contemporary reality, adapting them to the codes of shadow-puppet theatre, at the same time enriching them with elements from everyday life. The deeply social role of shadow-puppet theatre is directly linked to the immense contribution of the pioneers (and of more recent great Karagiozi puppeteers) in shaping the genre, but mainly linked to the ability of the masters to keep alive their communication with the audiences, over the years, through the relation with the more robust sources of tradition, which they integrate in collective co-creation and feedback.

Τo date, there are over 600 plays recorded in the repertoire of shadow-puppet theatre, not taking into consideration any variations.

Historical facts relating to the bearer of the ICH element:

The Association of Greek Karagiozi Puppeteers was founded in 1925 and originally comprised 120 members, apprentices of Mimaros, Roulias and Memos. The Association’s founders were the well-known shadow-puppet theatre artists, Sotiris Spatharis and Antonis Papoulias aka Mollas.

Data update (at least every 5 years):


[toggle title=”V. Significance of the element for Intangible Cultural Heritage“]

  1. Methods of exploitation

The recognition of shadow-puppet theatre and its promotion are important factors for Intangible Cultural Heritage, as through its communicative power it transmits and reproduces a large number of folk art elements, high-class artistic motifs and powerful cultural models. It constitutes a most important chapter of cultural heritage, which has influenced a large number of important contemporary Greek artists.

Actions, Dissemination, Intercultural Contacts

The character of shadow-puppet theatre is multi-cultural. To be more specific, it presents a great variety of characters, nationalities, cultural traditions, that, by parading on the screen, become acceptable, despite the fact that some of their characteristics are being mocked.

Nowadays, international conventions and festivals are held, while Karagiozi puppeteers travel abroad, invited by Greek expatriate communities, as well as other entities.

  1. Safeguarding Measures (at a local, regional or national level) – Instruction
  •  SeminarsFrom time to time, seminars are organized by a number of entities (municipalities, libraries, cultural societies, etc.); these are an important means for safeguarding and passing down the art of shadow-puppet theatre. The syllabus includes the key points in the history and traditions of Greek shadow-puppet theatre, construction of figures and/or scene sets, the repertoire, techniques of movement and mimicry, etc.▪ Workshops for figure crafting

    These are usually organized by Municipalities, Societies or even the Karagiozi puppeteers themselves. They are intended for a younger audience and, more rarely, for adults.
    ▪ Organizing a performance

    Frequently, in elementary schools, but also at other levels of education, organizing a shadow-puppet theatrical performance, may be the academic year’s project, thus initiating students to the art of shadow-puppet theatre.

  • Festivals and Competitions

Such events are particularly useful for highlighting new talents, as they offer the opportunity for new artists to become more broadly known.

It is imperative for all these activities to be systematically and successfully coordinated.

A body needs to be established, that would cooperate with the relevant departments of the Ministry of Culture, which would be responsible for the organization of such events. This could be achieved through the founding of a new, modern museum for shadow-puppet theatre, whose operation would be based on all contemporary theories and methods (digitization, documentation, educational activities and events, exhibitions and performances, collaborations, etc.) in order to safeguard and promote the art of shadow-puppet theatre and guarantee its evolution.

The main aim and mission of such an institution would be to collect, preserve, restore, safeguard and develop all types of archival material concerning the Greek shadow-puppet theatre, which is currently scattered amongst public and private collections. It would also support networking and cooperation with bodies that represent or deal with the topic.

The Panhellenic Association of Shadow-puppet Theatre proposes a more systematic cooperation of artists with schools, as actions for safeguarding and disseminating the element (e.g. setting a date for the visit of shadow-puppet theatres to schools). In addition, they propose establishing criteria for issuing licenses to practise the profession, tax relief (the annulment of VAT for shadow theatre artists), the provision of financial assistance and knowhow by the Ministry of Culture and Sports to the Association, for making the best use of European Union Programmes and, lastly, setting up permanent stages in Athens and regions of Greece.


[toggle title=”Available Bibliography“]

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Caimi, G., 1935, Karaghiozi ou La Comedie Greque dans l’ ame du Theatre d’ Ombres, Αθήνα, εκδ. Ελληνικές Τέχνες

Δαμιανάκος, Σ., 1987, Παράδοση Ανταρσίας και Λαϊκός Πολιτισμός, Αθήνα, εκδ. Πλέθρον

Δήμος Πατρέων & Επικράτεια Πολιτισμού ΥΠΠΟ, 2001,1ο Διεθνές Φεστιβάλ Θεάτρου Σκιών, ΔΕΠΑΠ, Πάτρα

Ιωάννου, Γ., 1995, Ο Καραγκιόζης, Αθήνα, εκδ. Ερμής, (3 τ.)

Ινστιτούτο Μεσογειακών Σπουδών, 2015, Γεωργιάδη Κων. (επ.), Για μια επιστημονική προσέγγιση του Καραγκιόζη (Πρακτικά Ημερίδας), Πανεπιστημιακές Εκδόσεις Κρήτης

Ιερωνυμίδης, Μ., 1998, Πίσω απο τον Μπερντέ – Ηχητικά και οπτικά τεχνάσματα στο Ελληνικό Θέατρο Σκιών, Αθήνα, Αρχείο Ελληνικού Θεάτρου Σκιών – εκδ. Άμμος

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Καΐμη, Τζ. 1990, Καραγκιόζης ή η Αρχαία Κωμωδία στην Ψυχή του Θεάτρου Σκιών,  Αθήνα, εκδ. Γαβριηλίδης

Καλονάρος, Π., 1977, Η Ιστορία του Καραγκιόζη, Αθήνα, εκδ. Ευκλείδης

Κιουρτσάκης, Γ., 1985, Καρναβάλι και Καραγκιόζης, Αθήνα, εκδ. Κέδρος

Κιουρτσάκης, Γ., 1983, Προφορική Παράδοση και Ομαδική Δημιουργία, Αθήνα, εκδ. Κέδρος

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1. Name: Athos Danelis

Capacity: Karagiozi puppeteer; shadow theatre researcher

2. Name: Maria Fakiola

Capacity: Member of Staff, Ministry of Culture and Sports, Social Anthropologist, PhD,
Appended documentation
There is a Shadow Theatre Appendix.