A Tribute to Kemal Tunç

A pioneer of Turkish Cypriot Theatre

By Margaret Sheard….

During a recent visit to Bűyűkkonuk for the Donkey DayKemal Tunc festival, Chris wandered off to explore and discovered some interesting information in a small park located in the village.  I have since done some research about the subject of his interest – Kemal Tunç – and while there is not a lot of information available, at least in English, it was lucky that there was some explanation on a plaque in the park and following is a transcription of the words.  It is surprising what can be learned when looking around and this is one example.

Alikko and Caher

The events which burst out in 1963 had caused a moral breakdown among the Turkish Cypriots.  Kemal Tunç, one of the Featured imagefounders of “Ilk Sahne” (The First Stage) and the name behind the voice of the first announcement made from Radio Bayrak, was such inspired by his mother’s birthplace, Bűyűkkonuk Village, that he created the characters Alikko and Caher in 1964 in order to give moral support to the Turkish Cypriots and make them smile a bit.

The sketches, which were written in Karpaz dialect and which described Bűyűkkonuk village and the Cypriot folk, made all the Turkish Cypriots gather around their radios for many years every Sunday at eleven o’clock.

Alikko and Caher were two real friends that lived in Bűyűkkonuk village and the sketches were like fragments taken from the Cypriots’ daily lives.  The character Alikko was animated by Kemal Tunç and Caher by Dinçer Ismail Aktuğ, later in 1967 Osman Balikçioğlu had given life to Caher for many years.  Then, Yűcel Köseoğlu took his place and  acted the Caher character, whilst Gűzide Tunç gave life to Alikko’s wife “Hatmalı”.

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Starting from 1964, Alikko and Caher was performed up until 1972.  In 1972 the broadcasting of the sketches was banned.  Upon this, when Kemal Tunç founded his own private Altun Sahne Theatre, he transferred Alikko and Caher back again on the stage, Kemal Tunç, together with his friends Osman Balikçioğlu, Sadiye Balikçioğlu, Biler Demircioğlu, Hatice Sögűt and Hűseyin Kanath, toured the whole island and their audience reached 15 thousand people.  Alikko and Caher was on the stage until 1973.

Alikko and Caher has been a mark in Turkish Cypriot folklore.  Today it still has an important place in the memories of every Turkish Cypriot who lived in the 1960’s.

Bűyűkkonuk Municipality

Some of the information which has been obtained from various sources on the internet plus his daughter Turegun Tunc about Kemal Tunç and the Turkish Cypriot Theatre is given below:-

One important success of the Turkish-Cypriot theatre has been with a certain radio theatre called Alikko and Caher. The play became very popular for a simple reason that the characters spoke with what was called a very Cypriot [rural] accent of the early years and that the people could find a part of them in the characters.

Alikko and Caher could be likened to Laurel and Hardy.

The Turkish Cypriot professional theatre company called Ilk Sahne [First Stage], was founded in February 1963. In 1965, First Stage enjoyed the subsidy of the Turkish Cypriot Communal Chamber and was renamed Turkish Cypriot First Stage Theatre. The theatre group attracted a regular and devoted public. In 1971 the troupe Altun Sahne [Golden Stage] was founded, which also performed plays in the Turkish Cypriot dialect, such as the play of Kemal Tunç  Alikko ile Caher.

Kemal Tunc made the first broadcast on Bayrak Radio in December 1963, and was the creator of the Alikko and Cafer comedy sketches that were popular with Turkish Cypriots.  He performed the sketches along with Osman Balikcioglu, and the pair were immortalised with the unveiling of life-sized figures in the park, created by ceramic sculptor Sevcan Cerkez.

Mr Tunc`s daughter, Turegun Tunc, spoke of her pride in her father, who Mr Kucuk said had made a huge contribution towards keeping up public morale during and after the outbreak of fighting in 1963.

I have been in contact with Tűregűn Tunç and she has kindly made available some photographs of her father. I am so pleased to be able to publish these photographs to recapture some of the history of art and culture of North Cyprus which is so important for future generations.

Tűregűn also provided some additional information about her father.

Kemal Tunç was born in Lefke on 10th November 1938.  The opening of the Kemal Tunç Park in Bűyűkkonuk was in honour of one of the pioneers of Turkish Cypriot theatre who had also lived in Buyukkonuk.

What a fascinating story and I wonder how many people are still around who can remember these Alikko and Caher radio sketches.

With thanks to one of our readers, Ismail Isilsoy, for giving us the link to this wonderful recording from Youtube