Writer, playwright and theatre director
Born in 1945 in Bağrika/Fasulla near Paphos
Where the wild fennel grows
Whenever I drive over the last western ridge of the Kyrenia mountain range coming from Lapta towards Güzelyurt, I always get the feeling of being in an area of timelessness, nature still untouched in the colours of dark red and various greens. Typical mountain trees bent by the rough sea wind and from the red soil break the wild fennel stems like fists which will come to full bloom a little later in spring. Arriving at Kalkanlı village, there where today the Middle East University sits looking down on one side onto several hundred years old olive groves and on the other towards the south over the wide plains of the Mesaoria, fresh green now after the heavy rains. From where Bekir Kara’s house stands I can overlook the lowlands as far as Güzelyurt with the blueish Trodoos mountains behind. Some million years ago I would have looked down - right from here onto a channel of the Mediterranean sea separating us from the other island in the south. The legends say that the Mesaoria emerged from the sea in seven slow steps to today’s height of 350 m.
(With Bekir Kara’s words):A true story which happened in Paphos village in 1894 where there lived three brothers by the name of Hasan Boulli. with Kavouni being the youngest. One day a disastrous event hit them caused by Kavouni but they left the village together for loyalty reasons. There were called murderers and so they escaped to the mountains and lived there hidden. But still, they were morally involved with their people in the village and helped them in many ways and soon, they were their heroes, although they had done cruel things. One of their friends finally betrayed them and that was their END.
A very quiet place to live and with a good view to the South, where behind the mountains lies Paphos where Bekir Kara was born, where his wife Sabiha and both the friends were born, friends who have come to help interpreting, Fatoş Sevem and Zeynep Komouksu and they immediately make me feel at home. Sabiha brings Turkish coffee and walnut preserve which she says is good for my cough… Ahh Paphos they say, and they touch their hearts and sigh deeply, in Paphos there are only superlatives, everything is the best, the most beautiful, the most hated and the most cruel, says Zeynep,..but as I can see, still the most loved. From there, most of them were made to move to Güzelyurt in 1974.
“In Bağrikara/Fasulla, a village near Paphos, I spent my childhood and elementary school years”, Bekir Kara said. “We owned a piece of land where we grew everything which we needed for our living. My father worked for the British base. Later, when I had to go to secondary school we moved to Yalova/Piskobu, that was around 1958.”
From 19 Mayis Lycee in Limassol he graduated in 1963. Already as a youngster he wrote his first play ‘The Scent of the Earth’. “I must have been 17 years old then. I was interested in all which happened around me, peoples’ lives, the problems they had, the comical situations which arose around these problems, human weaknesses, you know, everyday life in a Turkish Cypriot village.” All his plays – altogether 30 plays - circle around this kind of topic, milieu studies, I would call them. I remember to have discussed this phenomenon also with other theatre people; in the past, when there was no television and hardly any other entertainment, the public themes and problems were often taken up as plays onto the stage to make people aware of them and to hold a mirror in front of them. Would Bekir Kara agree to this?
“Yes, I do, theatre has often played an educational part in society, especially in times of trouble. What was handed on by whispers among neighbours would eventually be brought onto stage to uncover the misdeeds or village problems.”
“It took me some years before I could go to university, and during that time I discovered the world of theatre for me at the Belediye Theatre of Piskobu. I had gone on writing plays and from there it was but a step to directing. During that time I also studied the Saz, a traditional string instrument and I wrote the tunes and the verses for it. Altogether I have composed and written about 45 pieces, folk songs, four of which are today in the TRT repertoire (Turkish broadcaster and television).”
Gül oldum tütmedim
I turned into a rose without scent
It’s not enough to be a stranger
You went on hitting me
And felt no mercy for me.
Mountains, high mountains
I cried with all my heart
Without showing my feelings
Cruel strange hands of yours
You ties my body with pain.
Do you have CD’s or the notes written down, I ask him. “ YES, I do and I have written them down to conserve them for the future. Bekir Kara goes to get one of his Saz instruments and plays a tune for us. It is a string instrument not unlike a Greek Bouzouki, it is said that it is the grandfather of the Bouzouki and stems from Central Asia. There are several different sizes, explains Fatoş, who sings to it. She will sing on stage with Bekir accompanying her, but for her strong voice, he will have to take a bigger one. And she also entertains us with a lovely Turkish folksong.
“Fatma Sevem, calles Fatos by their friends, is scenery director at the Güzelyurt Belediye Theatre and a very good colleague of mine, also writing sketches and poems,” explains Bekir through Zeynep, the other friend.
Look, Bekir, I said laughingly to him, let us return to the young Bekir in Piskobu in the 1960’s who had started his career as playwright and also had got married to Sabiha in 1966, but when did you do your studies at university. “I started late, very late, in 1968. I had chosen the subject sociology, including philosophy, psychology, history and geography and graduated in 1971.” It was actually a logical subject to choose, had he not already sort of studied his village people, observed the behavior of men and women? “Yes”, he said, “it was a continuation of my research into habits, tradition, legends and also language getting explained my efforts in a scientific way.”
Love, Misery, Granddaughter and Children
In the old days, Arabs came to the island and bought the young girls to serve as slaves in their country. A Turkish Cypriot woman who was once sold to the Arabs and has never forgotten her country, told the most wonderful stories about this paradise to her granddaughter. This granddaughter later studied in Germany and to search for her roots went to visit Cyprus one day.
When Bekir returned home he started teaching first in elementary school, that was 1972-1973. For a short while he worked for the British army until 1974 when the war situation changed everybody’s life. Somehow I have the feeling that Bekir does not want to speak about it.
The Traces of Memory / Bellekteki Isler
The struggles between Turkish and Greek Cypriots and the migration in the years 1958 – 1963 and 1974. The hardship of people, the loss of home and families, the loss of happiness and liberty but they never lost hope and finally they gained their LIBERTY.
The family took up a new life again in Güzelyurt. He had various teaching jobs all over the island and at the same time he started being active in another passion of his, that was sports, especially football, and he managed it for 18 years. Wow, I am impressed. Bekir Kara is an organizer, wherever he was, he established a theatre group and managed sports and cultural matters and events. A born leader, and he wrote the words, and he wrote the music after which everything went. Güzelyurt became the western cultural centrepoint of the island over the years. Today Güzelyurt is well known for its Orange Festival, its musical and theatre events.
I asked Sabiha, his wife, whether she was also active in the cultural work of her husband. She said, oh no, she had other things to do with teaching arts and crafts, folk art such as embroidery, knitting, sewing and other artful works, she taught young girls and women. And she showed me some samples which are so famous for Cyprus. Her husband was always busy, when he was not writing, he was somewhere out to teach, direct, or play.
Bekir continued: “In the years between 1970 and 1980 I wrote sketches for Cypriot broadcasting and television, comedies about the daily life of our people. I was even going political with my articles for some newspapers, that was by the end of the nineties, but it was always for peace. I wanted that our government did something for us so we could finally live in peace and not always had to worry.”
The 1990s were packed with activities for him; besides teaching at the lycée as history teacher and later becoming its rector assistant, leading the sports and culture activities, working for First FM, a local radio station, he published the first two books with his plays, the first one still being written in Cypriot dialect. In 1992 he founded the Güzelyurt Municipality Theatre at the Atatürk Cultural Centre Güzelyurt and till today he acts as its director.
How many plays does he realize in one year - and are these his own plays, I ask him. “Two new plays in one year, and yes, they are my own plays. There are approximately 15 performances a year and we go on tour around the island, for example Atatürk Cultural Centre in Nicosia, or Anafatarlar School in Girne, and there are the yearly theatre festivals together with other theatre ensembles. We also toured in Turkey and have once been in London to play for our community there. I can do that big amount of work only because I have retired from school in 1996.”
I want to know something about the routine work at his theatre. How often do they rehearse, daily? “When there is a play running, we rehearse daily, otherwise on three evenings a week. We do courses of language, choreography and acting. Some very talented actors or actresses we send out to study professional acting.” The theatre house has 300 seats, I learn. Is the audience in the theatre rather elderly? “Oh no, we have about 60% young people. Come and see for yourself.”
Su Kavgalari - Fight for water
It is about times without water in Cyprus, a melodrama, a mirror in which people of a village discover their absurd wrong doings. A moral story to learn how to save water and how to feel responsible.
You must come, said Fatos and Zeynep, on the 9th of April we will have a guest performance at the Anafatarlar School in Girne with Bekir Kara’s play “Su Kavgalari” which is ‘Fights about water’. Very appropriate, in our waterless times!
Sabiha comes to interrupt us and says “Before you go anywhere, you all come and have lunch. While we were taking Bekir Kara’s life apart, Sabiha had prepared a delicious meal: Stuffed artichokes and wine leaves and a big bowl of salad and for me another mug of ada cay/mountain tea with ginger and honey. Out there in the garden, there are vegetables growing, do you want some brokkoli, Sabiha asks me. Bekir and Sabiha tend their garden, so that they can feed their sons and many many friends with fresh vegetables.
As I climb into my car I get some provisions with me for good health. Thank you, Sabiha
and Bekir and thank you Fatos and Zeynep for researching with me and interpreting.
List of publications:
Toplu Oyunlar I (Selection of plays): 1994
Toplu Oyunlar II (Selection of plays : 2009
Traces of memory I : 1998
Traves of Memory II : 2002
Kavouni : 2001
Love; Misery, Children and grandchildren : 2005
Sirlar ölümsürdür (Secrets don’t die) : 1996
Calkant (Agitation) – 1999
Aska Dair (About Love) : 2006
Numerous awards for his lifelong activities
As playwright, musician and sportsman
I have been wondering under which chapter I should position Bekir Kara, Literature or Theatre, but I decided to leave him under Lierature since without his writing he would not be a theatre man.
Copyright Heidi Trautmann