By Phatarawadee Phataranawik
THE TURKISH Embassy will on Thursday present for the first time in Thailand a ballet about the Ottoman Empire admiral and cartographer Piri Reis, a key figure in world maritime history.
The two-act ballet will be staged at the National Theatre in Bangkok as part of a series of cultural-exchange events celebrating the 60th anniversary of Thai-Turkish diplomatic relations. There is no admission charge.
The Culture Ministry in September gave Turks a taste of Thai culture with shows in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir that featured khon masked dance, muay thai kick-boxing, films, photography and fashion shows laden with silk.
And Turkey returned the favour last month with a dramatic fashion show of its own and exhibitions of dance and photography at the National Theatre.
On Thursday, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism is presenting the Samsun State Opera and Ballet in a performance of “Piri Reis”, a portrait in music and dance of the great navigator who drew his groundbreaking map of the world in 1513.
Unesco declared 2013 – the 500th anniversary of that feat – as the Year of Commemoration of Piri Reis. Piri’s “Kitab-i Bahriye” (“Book of the Sea”) charted ports and courses around the Mediterranean that sailors used for centuries.
Born Haci Ahmed Muhiddin Piri (Reis is a title signifying a ship’s captain), Piri was a privateer in his youth and later an admiral in the Ottoman navy, participating in the conquest of Egypt.
He was not an explorer, but rather based his maps on those of others such as Christopher Columbus, including a second world map in 1528 that showed North America from Labrador to the Caribbean.
Despite his achievements, Piri met a dark end. In 1553, at nearly 90 years of age, he declined his governor’s request to wage another campaign against the Portuguese and was beheaded.
Inspired by his amazing life and historical importance, Turkish choreographers Armagan Davran and Volkan Ersoy created the ballet “Piri Reis” with music by famed composer and compatriot Can Atilla.
It had its world premiere at the State Opera and Ballet of Mersin in 2013.
Piri’s world maps with their atlas of references and descriptions comes to life on the stage in multicoloured scenes presented by 30 actors and crewmembers.
There will also be an exhibition of photographs capturing all the appeal of Turkish culture and the beauty of the country’s landscapes.
>> “Piri Reis” is being staged at the National Theatre in Bangkok on Thursday at 6.30pm. Admission is free.