Turkey

2018

Heritage of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut, epic culture, folk tales and music

AzerbaijanKazakhstanTurkey

Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Heritage of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut, epic culture, folk tales and music

© Alexey Kamensky, 2017

The epic culture, folk tales and music of Dede Qorqud/Korkyt Ata/Dede Korkut are based on twelve heroic legends, stories and tales and thirteen traditional musical compositions shared and transmitted across the generations through oral expressions, performing arts, cultural codes and musical compositions. Dede Qorqud appears in each story as a legendary figure and wise individual, a sage of minstrels whose words, music and expressions of wisdom relate to traditions of birth, marriage and death. In the musical compositions, the main intonations are reproduced using a musical instrument called the Kobyz through the sounds of nature, and imitation soundscapes are characteristic of this medium (such as the imitation of a wolf’s howl or a swan’s note). The musical compositions are all interconnected by the epic stories that accompany them. The element encompasses social, cultural and moral values such as heroism, dialogue, physical and spiritual wellness and unity as well as respect for nature, and contains profound knowledge about the history and culture of Turkic-speaking communities. It is practised and sustained by the community concerned on a wide variety of occasions – from family events to national and international festivals – and is therefore well-rooted in society, serving as a connecting thread between generations.

Teaching at the school on the epos of Dede Qorqud

© Ramil Abbakirov, Azerbaijan, 2017



2017

Whistled language

Turkey

Inscribed in 2017 (12.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

 

Whistled language

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, General Directorate of Research and Training 2014

Whistled language is a method of communication that uses whistling to simulate and articulate words. The practice developed as a result of the steep mountains and rugged topography of the region, which required the local population to find an alternative way to communicate across long distances. The practitioners are mainly agricultural communities who spend most of their lives outdoors. The communities concerned consider this practice to be a key reflection of their cultural identity, which reinforces interpersonal communication and solidarity. Although the community is aware of the importance of this practice, technological developments and socioeconomic changes have led to a decline in the number of practitioners and areas where it is spoken. One of the key threats to the practice is the use of mobile phones. The new generation’s interest in whistled language has diminished considerably and there is a risk that the element will be gradually torn from its natural environment, becoming an artificial practice. In spite of such threats, the communities have been actively promoting this linguistic practice both nationally and internationally to ensure its sustainability, and whistled language is still transmitted from generation to generation in the context of parent-child relations through both formal and informal methods.

The steep mountains, rugged topography and dispersed settlements of the region where is used whistled language

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, General Directorate of Research and Training 2016



2017

Spring celebration, Hıdrellez

Republic of North Macedonia, Turkey

Inscribed in 2017 (12.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

 

Spring celebration, Hıdrellez

© Združenie Proletni Veselbi/Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, General Directorate of Research and Training 2014

The Spring Celebration ‘Hidrellez’ takes place annually on 6 May, which is recognized as Spring Day, or the awakening of nature. ‘Hidrellez’ is a compound noun derived from ‘Hidir’ and ‘Ilyas’, which are believed to be the protectors of earth and water and the helpers of individuals, families and communities in need of them. To mark this occasion, various ceremonies and rituals connected with nature are performed, guaranteeing the wellbeing, fertility and prosperity of the family and community and protecting livestock and crops for the upcoming year. The element belongs to all participants: families, children, youth, adults, dancers and singers. The rituals have deep-rooted cultural meanings and provide the community with a sense of belonging and cultural identity and an opportunity to strengthen relations. The communities concerned ensure the viability of the element by participating in the Spring Celebration on an annual basis. The complex organization of related events at the local, regional and national levels ensures the wide participation of individuals, groups and communities. The element is recognized as a key part of the cultural identity of the local communities and related knowledge and skills are transmitted within the family and between community members through oral communication, observation, participation and performances.

Pelivan wrestling on Hidrellez Day

© Združenie Festival Proletni Veselbi 2010



2016

Traditional craftsmanship of Çini-making

Turkey

Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2014

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2014

Çini are traditional, handmade glazed tiles and ceramics made in Turkey featuring colourful motifs of plants, animals and geometric patterns often found on facades of buildings and in homes throughout the country. Producing çini involves a series of processes. The clay is first shaped, lined, dried and fired in ovens specifically for çini making. Designs representing local customs and beliefs are then drilled on paper and transferred to the surface with coal dust. Outer contours of the patterns are hand drawn, the surface dyed in various colours and then the work is glazed and fired. Çini-making workshops involve craftspeople, supervisors and apprentices. Each craftsperson has a specific role – shaping, design and dye, polishing and undercoating or firing. Practitioners consider çini making as an outlet for self-expression, development and healing, as well as a means of maintaining an art form that is a symbolic aspect of Turkey’s cultural identity, strengthening links from the past to the present providing continuity. Çini making is not confined to workshop spaces. The tradition is also practised in the home, public education centres, vocation schools and universities throughout the country where neither age, gender nor ethnicity are barriers to knowledge sharing, transmission and skills development.

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2014

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2014



2016

Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), 2015

© Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), 2015

 

Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz or Nevruz marks the New Year and the beginning of spring across a vast geographical area covering, inter alia, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations. Novruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends. The rites that accompany the festivity vary from place to place, ranging from leaping over fires and streams in Iran to tightrope walking, leaving lit candles at house doors, traditional games such as horse racing or the traditional wrestling practised in Kyrgyzstan. Songs and dances are common to almost all the regions, as are semi-sacred family or public meals. Children are the primary beneficiaries of the festivities and take part in a number of activities, such as decorating hard-boiled eggs. Women play a key role in organizing Novruz and passing on its traditions. Novruz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities.

© Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), 2015

© Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), 2015



2016

Flatbread making and sharing culture: Lavash, Katyrma, Jupka, Yufka

Azerbaijan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey

Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan/ICHHTO/Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2015

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan/ICHHTO/Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, 2015

The culture of making and sharing flatbread in communities of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey carries social functions that have enabled it to continue as a widely-practised tradition. Making the bread (lavash, katyrma, jupka or yufka) involves at least three people, often family members, with each having a role in its preparation and baking. In rural areas, neighbours participate in the process together. Traditional bakeries also make the bread. It is baked using a tandyr/tanūr (an earth or stone oven in the ground), sāj (a metal plate) or kazan (a cauldron). Besides regular meals, flatbread is shared at weddings, births, funerals, various holidays and during prayers. In Azerbaijan and Iran, it is put on the bride’s shoulders or crumbled over her head to wish the couple prosperity while in Turkey it is given to the couple’s neighbours. At funerals in Kazakhstan it is believed the bread should be prepared to protect the deceased while a decision is made from God and in Kyrgyzstan sharing the bread provides a better afterlife for the deceased. The practice, transmitted by participation within families and from master to apprentice, expresses hospitality, solidarity and certain beliefs that symbolize common cultural roots reinforcing community belonging.

© 2015 by M. Rahimov/Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan

© 2015 by M. Rahimov/Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan



2014

Ebru, Turkish art of marbling

Turkey

Inscribed in 2014 (9.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Ebru: Turkish art of marbling’ © 2011 by Emel Durmus, Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Ebru: Turkish art of marbling’
© 2011 by Emel Durmus, Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

Ebru is the traditional Turkish art of creating colourful patterns by sprinkling and brushing colour pigments onto a pan of oily water and then transferring the patterns to paper. Known as marbling, the designs and effects include flowers, foliage, ornamentation, latticework, mosques and moons, and are used for decoration in the traditional art of bookbinding. The practitioner uses natural methods to extract colours from natural pigments, which are then mixed with a few drops of ox-gall, a kind of natural acid, before sprinkling and brushing the colours onto a preparation of condensed liquid, where they float and form swirling patterns. Ebru artists, apprentices and practitioners consider their art to be an integral part of their traditional culture, identity and lifestyle. Their knowledge and skills, as well as the philosophy behind this art, are transmitted orally and through informal practical training within master-apprentice relationships. Achieving basic skills in Ebru takes at least two years. The tradition is practised without barrier of age, gender or ethnicity, and plays a significant role in the empowerment of women and the improvement of community relationships. The collective art of Ebru encourages dialogue through friendly conversation, reinforces social ties and strengthens relations between individuals and communities.

© 2011 by Emel Durmus, Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© 2011 by Emel Durmus, Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2013

Turkish coffee culture and tradition

Turkey

Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Turkish Coffee, Culture and Tradition’ © 2011 by Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Turkish Coffee, Culture and Tradition’
© 2011 by Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

Turkish coffee combines special preparation and brewing techniques with a rich communal traditional culture. The freshly roasted beans are ground to a fine powder; then the ground coffee, cold water and sugar are added to a coffee pot and brewed slowly on a stove to produce the desired foam. The beverage is served in small cups, accompanied by a glass of water, and is mainly drunk in coffee-houses where people meet to converse, share news and read books. The tradition itself is a symbol of hospitality, friendship, refinement and entertainment that permeates all walks of life. An invitation for coffee among friends provides an opportunity for intimate talk and the sharing of daily concerns. Turkish coffee also plays an important role on social occasions such as engagement ceremonies and holidays; its knowledge and rituals are transmitted informally by family members through observation and participation. The grounds left in the empty cup are often used to tell a person’s fortune. Turkish coffee is regarded as part of Turkish cultural heritage: it is celebrated in literature and songs, and is an indispensable part of ceremonial occasions.

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2012

Mesir Macunu festival

Turkey

Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Mesir Macunu Festivities’ © Researcher of Folklore working for Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Mesir Macunu Festivities’
© Researcher of Folklore working for Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

The Mesir Macunu festival of Manisa, Turkey, commemorates the recovery of Hafsa Sultan, mother of Suleiman the Magnificent, who was cured of a disease by the invention of a paste known as mesir macunu. The Sultan then ordered that the paste be disseminated to the public. So, every year from 21 to 24 March, the paste is prepared by a chef and apprentices from 41 fresh spices and herbs according to traditional practice. A team of 14 women wrap the paste in small pieces of paper, and 28 imams and apprentices bless it before scattering the paste from the top of the minaret and the domes of the Sultan Mosque. Thousands of people come from different regions of Turkey to compete to catch the pieces as they fall. Many believe that by so doing their wishes for marriage, work and children will come true within a year. A 45-piece orchestra dressed in traditional clothing perform historical Ottoman music during the preparation of the paste and throughout the festival. Inhabitants of Manisa have a deep emotional attachment to the festival. The strength of tradition creates a strong sense of solidarity among local communities, and the city welcomes guests from almost all regions of Turkey.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture/Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture/Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2011

Ceremonial Keşkek tradition

Turkey

Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Ceremonial Keşkek Tradition’ © 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Film ‘Ceremonial Keşkek Tradition’
© 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

 

Keşkek is a traditional Turkish ceremonial dish prepared for wedding ceremonies, circumcisions and religious holidays. Women and men work together to cook wheat and meat called ‘Keşkek’ in huge cauldrons, then serve it to the guests. The wheat is washed with prayers the preceding day, and then carried to a large stone mortar, to the accompaniment of music from the ”davul” drum and zurna double-reed pipe. At the mortar it is hulled by two to four persons using gavels in a fixed rhythm. Cooking is usually carried out outdoors: hulled wheat, chunks of meat on the bone, onions, spices, water and oil are added to the cauldron and cooked all night. Towards noon, the strongest of the village youth are called to beat the Keşkek with wooden mallets, while the crowd cheers and zurna players perform musical pieces, announcing the thickening of the stew with a specific melody. Numerous expressions associated with the dish – used during the selection of wheat, the blessings, praying and carrying the wheat, as well as preparing and cooking it – have become common expressions in daily life. In addition, the tradition encompasses entertainment, plays and musical performances. Neighbouring towns and villages are invited to feast collectively in the ceremony premises. The cooking tradition is safeguarded and transmitted by master cooks to apprentices.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey



2010

Kırkpınar oil wrestling festival

Turkey

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM ) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival’ © 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival’
© 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

The Kırkpınar oil wrestling festival takes place in Edirne, Turkey. Thousands of people from different age groups, cultures and regions travel every year to see ”Pehlivan” (wrestlers) fight for the Kırkpınar Golden Belt and the title of Chief Pehlivan. Each festival is launched by its patron, the ”Kırkpınar Aga,” in a ceremony featuring forty bands of ”davul” drums and ”zurna” shawms. The golden belt is carried through the city in a procession, followed by prayers recited in the Selimiye Mosque. The wrestling bouts customarily take place at the Men’s Field. The master of ceremonies introduces the ”Pehlivans” to the audience, reciting in verse their names, titles and skills. Next, the oil man oils the wrestlers assisted by the towel holder, before the warm-up exercises and greetings. The wrestlers each wear ”kıspet,” thick trousers made of water buffalo or cow leather. As the wrestling takes place, the drum and shawm bands play the traditional repertoire of the festival. Kırkpınar oil wrestling is open to men from all cultures, regions and ages without discrimination between religion, language or race. ”Pehlivans” are considered exemplary figures in society with attributes such as generosity, honesty, respectfulness and adherence to traditions and customs. All ”Pehlivans” are trained in the master-apprentice tradition.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2010

Semah, Alevi-Bektaşi ritual

Turkey

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM ) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Anatolian Alawi Semahs’ © 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Anatolian Alawi Semahs’
© 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

Semahs can be described as a set of mystical and aesthetic body movements in rhythmic harmony. They constitute one of the twelve main services found in ”Cem” rituals, religious practices performed by adherents of Alevi-Bektaşi, a belief system based on admiration for Ali, the fourth caliph after the prophet Muhammed. Semahs are performed by ”semahçıs” (Semah dancers), accompanied by devout musicians playing the ”saz” long-necked lute. Various forms of Semah exist in Alevi-Bektaşi communities across Turkey, each with distinct musical characteristics and rhythmic structures. One consistent characteristic is the performance of the ritual by both men and women, side by side. Semah rituals are founded upon the concept of unity with God as part of a natural cycle: people come from God and return to God. There are two forms of Semah: ”İçeri” Semahs are performed in ”Cems” only among adherents as part of the twelve services; ”Dışarı” Semahs are performed independent of services to promote Semah culture to younger generations. Semahs are the most crucial means for the transmission of the Alevi-Bektaşi tradition. All practices, traditional motifs and teachings are passed on orally, and distinct genres of art and literature associated with the tradition continue to thrive. In this way, Semahs play a crucial role in fostering and enriching the traditional music culture of Turkey.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2010

Traditional Sohbet meetings

Turkey

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM ) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Film ‘Traditional Sohbet Meetings’ © 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Film ‘Traditional Sohbet Meetings’
© 2009 Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

 

Traditional Sohbet meetings play a crucial role in transmitting Turkish folk literature, folk dances and music, village plays as well as societal values. Turkish men meet regularly indoors, especially in winter, to discuss local social and cultural issues, safeguard traditions, and encourage solidarity, mutual respect and a sense of community. Meetings may include music, dances and plays, all enjoyed while consuming local dishes. A traditional Sohbet meeting may last until the early morning. Meetings are open to men above the age of 15 or 16, regardless of ethnicity, religion or status, with the basic requirement that members be of honest families, be trustworthy and respectful of their elders, and not gamble or display public drunkenness. Members may be penalized with a fine for missing a meeting, except under extenuating circumstances. Mothers and wives encourage male members to attend because of the associated social and cultural benefits. Communities usually comprise five to thirty persons and are guided by leaders, appointed by election or proposed by elders. Members of the community all have equal rights and commitments. The Sohbet meetings fulfil an important educational function by transferring ethical values such as social justice, tolerance, benevolence and respect.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2009

Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition

Turkey

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM ) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition

Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition

 

The Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition of Turkey is performed by wandering poet-singers known as ”âşıks.” Dressed in traditional clothes and plucking a stringed ”saz,” the âşık is a common performer at weddings, in coffeehouses and during public festivals of all sorts. The âşık is called in a dream to undertake a long apprenticeship in the arts of playing string and percussion instruments, singing, storytelling and repartee that form the heart of the vocation. The poems they recite, usually about love, are written in rhymed syllabic meter and end with a quatrain in which the âşık utters the ”Mâhlas,” his pseudonym. Their improvisational performances may also include riddles, folk tales, verbal duels of wit and creativity with other âşıks, and verses sung while the minstrel holds a needle in his mouth to force him to recite poems avoiding B, P, V, M and F sounds. Because âşıks travel between communities, they help to spread cultural values and ideas and to facilitate a robust social dialogue, in part through topical poetry and social and political satire. At weddings in particular, âşıks are regarded as instructors and guides whose tradition draws on and enriches Turkish literary culture and the daily lives of communities throughout the country.

© 2008, Information and Documentation Center for Folk Culture/Ministry of Culture and Tourism

© 2008, Information and Documentation Center for Folk Culture/Ministry of Culture and Tourism



2009

Karagöz

Turkey

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM ) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Karagöz

Karagöz

 

Karagöz is a form of shadow theatre in Turkey in which figures known as ”tasvirs” made of camel or ox hide in the shape of people or things are held on rods in front of a light source to cast their shadows onto a cotton screen. A play begins with the projection of an introductory figure to set the scene and suggest the themes of the drama, before it vanishes to the shrill sound of a whistle, giving way to a main performance that may incorporate singing, tambourine music, poetry, myth, tongue-twisters and riddles. The usually comic stories feature the main characters Karagöz and Hacivat and a host of others, including a cabaret chanteuse called Kantocu and an illusionist-acrobat named Hokkabaz, and abound in puns and imitations of regional accents. The puppets are manipulated by one lead artist, the Hayali, who may have one or more apprentice-assistants who are learning the craft by helping to create the tasvirs and accompanying the action with music. Once played widely at coffeehouses, gardens, and public squares, especially during the holy month of Ramazan, as well as during circumcision feasts, Karagöz is found today mostly in performance halls, schools and malls in larger cities where it still draws audiences. The traditional theatre strengthens a sense of cultural identity while bringing people closer together through entertainment.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey



2008

Arts of the Meddah, public storytellers

Turkey

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2003)

The Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers

The Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers

 

Meddahlik was a Turkish theatre form performed by a single storyteller called a meddah and practised throughout Turkey and Turkishspeaking countries. Through the ages, similar narrative genres have flourished due to interaction among the peoples of Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East within this wide geographical area. Historically, meddahs were expected to illuminate, educate, and entertain. Performing in caravanserais, markets, coffeehouses, mosques and churches, these storytellers transmitted values and ideas among a predominantly illiterate population. Their social and political criticism regularly provoked lively discussions about contemporary issues. The term meddah, borrowed from Arabic maddah “to praise”, can be translated as “storyteller”. The meddah selects songs and comic tales from a repertory of popular romances, legends and epics and adapts his material according to the specific venue and audience. However, the quality of the performance largely depends on the atmosphere created between storyteller and spectators, as well as the meddah’s ability to integrate imitations, jokes and improvisation often relating to contemporary events. This art, which places great value on the mastery of rhetoric, is highly regarded in Turkey. Although some meddahs still perform at a number of religious and secular celebrations and appear on television shows, the genre has lost much of its original educational and social function due to the development of the mass media and in particular because of the appearance of TV sets in cafés.

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

© Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture / Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey



2008

Mevlevi Sema ceremony

Turkey

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)

The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony

The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony

 

The Mevleviye is an ascetic Sufi order founded in 1273 in Konya, from where it gradually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Today, the Mevleviye can be found in many Turkish communities throughout the world, but the most active and famous centres of the order’s activity are in Konya and Istanbul. The Mevleviye are renowned for their whirling dances. Following a recommended fast of several hours, the whirlers begin to rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The body of the whirler is meant to be supple, with eyes open but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. At their dancing ceremonies, or Sema, a particular musical repertoire called ay›n is played. Based on four sections of both vocal and instrumental compositions, it is performed by at least one singer, a flute-player, called neyzen, a kettledrummer and a cymbal player. Dancers used to receive 1,001 days of reclusive training within the mevlevi-houses (mevlevihane), where they learned about ethics, codes of behaviour and beliefs by practising prayer, religious music, poetry and dance. After this training, they remained members of the order but returned to their work and families. As a result of secularization policies, all mevlevihane were closed in 1925.The Turkish government began to allow performances again, though only in public, in the 1950s, restrictions were eased in the 1990s. Some private groups are re-establishing the original spiritual and intimate character of the Sema ceremony. However, over the thirty years the tradition was practised clandestinely, transmission focused rather on music and songs than on spiritual and religious traditions, which has deprived performances of part of their religious significance. Consequently, many sema ceremonies are no longer performed in their traditional context but for tourist audiences, and have been shortened and simplified to meet commercial requirements.

© Directorate General of Information Audiovisual Archive// Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

© Directorate General of Information Audiovisual Archive// Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey

Republic of Turkey joined UNESCO on 04.11.1946

Republic of Turkey is a parliamentary republic in Eurasia, largely located in Western Asia, with the smaller portion of Eastern Thrace in South Еast Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Syria and Iraq to the south; Iran, Armenia, and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the east; Georgia to the northeast; Bulgaria to the northwest; and Greece to the west. The Black Sea is to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west. The Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles demarcate the boundary between Thrace and Anatolia; they also separate Europe and Asia.