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Devlet Opera ve Bale
Göbekli Tepe



'Afife' is based on the tragic life of Afife Jale, the first Muslim actress who has set foot on stage during the time when muslim women were forbidden to do so.

Afife, jaded and all her abilities lost in her declining years in Bakırköy Hospital for the mentally ill, just before she dies; is treated by her nurses who are characterized as 'shadows' and remembers the four periods of her life.

Afife goes on a 'flasback' journey that is represented by four different dancers, depicting the four periods of her life which is full of drama, adversity and love. Each period has its own dream. In the final period the dream becomes a nightmare and her tragic life is nearing its end. Afife dies in the arms of Ziya, her first love, in poverty and solitude. Though she moved on, her one major achievement has influenced hundreds or even thousands of Turkish women to date and she has become a touchstone in the history of 'performing arts' in Turkey.

In 1918, Afife lives with her father Hidayet, her mother Methiye, her elder sister Behiye and her elder brother Salah. She has a close relationship with her cousin Ziya who visits the family home frequently. Afife and Ziya have a crush on each other, they meet from time to time and talk about Afife's passion and interest in 'theatre'. When her friends Beyza, Refika, Behire and Memduha visit Afife, they have fun performing drama at her home with the participation of Ziya.

Afife applies for internship responding to an official announcement of Dar'ül Bedayi (National School of Drama) unbeknown to her father and she is accepted. However, when her father reads it in a newspaper, he gets furious and therefore a big argument breaks out at home. Afife is thrown out of the house by her stern father. It is a period when only non-Muslim women are allowed to perform on stage. Because she cannot act on stage, Afife has to make do with backstage chores. In 1919, due to the lead actress Eliza Binemeciyan not being able to return from Paris in time for a performance of 'Yamalar', the management of Dar'ul Bedayi; playwright Hüseyin Kemal, actors Behzat and Burhanettin, visit Afife at her home and offer her to take on this role. Afife grabs the opportunity that she's been waiting for a long time and thus she enters the second period of her life.

Now Afife shares the same ambiance with the other actresses in the dressing room at the Theatre. They teach her how to make up, how to wear costumes and everything. On the night of April 22, 1919 when she sets foot on stage, she knows that she is making a mark in the history of the country. She becomes the first Muslim woman to have performed in Turkish Theatre, in a period in which Muslim Turkish women were forbidden to perform on stage. After this, the hard times begin. Mehmet Ali Bey, the Minister of Interior, loos over her like a nightmare. The Theatre is repeatedly raided by police; at every turn she makes good her escape with the help from her friends and she undauntedly keeps on performing. Afife meets Mehmet Ali Bey at a party held in Eliza Binemeciyan's house, Afife attends the party alongside her actress friends but she is harassed by the Minister implicitly. During one of the raids to the raids to the theatre, Afife is taken to the police station. There she is severely interrogated; 'Is it you who has neglected your own religion and nationality?' In the meantime, Ziya goes to the war front. Afife is heartbroken, her zeal is being challenged and 'the warrior spirit' within her is weakened.


The year is 1921. Afife has moved to an even poorer abode with her mother who is helplessly trying to support her daughter. Contrary to the Crimson period which is full of excitement, police pressure and audience applause; the Purple period of the heroine is subdued and somewhat broken. Afife suffers from intense headaches and is treated by Dr. Suat, a Syrian doctor. Dr. Suat administers morphine to take away her pain and this leads to Afife's addiction. Meanwhile she's in a relationship with Dr. Suat who is in love with her. A secondary pronouncement published by The Ministry of Interio, which strictly forbids Muslim women to perform on stage, further devastates her. Due to her addiction she is often late for rehearsals, cannot keep the job and is officially dismissed from the Theatre. Afife takes solace in the morphine injections given by Dr. Suat.

By the time the performing ban is lifted in 1923 with the Proclamation of the Republic, it is almost too late for Afife as she is totally exhausted. She looks for Ziya among Turkish revolutionary Forces (Kuva-i Milliye) who arrive in İstanbul to join the celebrations. She hasn't heard from him for so long; she's unable to learn if he's martyred or not. Though Afife tries to make the most of the opportunities that the new laws that the new Republic provides, she's alienated from her life's work due to her state of mind and health problems. Then she decides to break up with Dr. Suat.

Afife has married Selahattin Pınar whom she meets in 1928 during the concert of Hafız Burhan. The two are deeply in love and Pınar writes severel songs for her, which later become well known.

However, Afife is miserable because of the rejection by her husband's family who come from an upper class background and do not approve of Afife's love of theatre and her life style. Once again, she finds solace in drugs. Her relationship with Selahattin Pınar's social circle gets worse and life becomes unbearable for Selahattin Pınar due to the frequent and violent quarrels. The composer tries hard to save his wife from her drug addiction bur fails; Afife begs him to leave her and the couple gets divorced in 1935.

The year is 1941, Afife falls further into depression and she is unable to pull herself out of the decline. She sleeps on park benches all alone, suffering from nightmares that visit her every now and then. Ultimately she's admitted to Bakırköy Mental Hospital by her friends at Dar'ül Bedayi. Meanwhile, Ziya returns from war front, is married and has a baby girl whom he has named 'Afife'. In Afife's mind, Ziya visits her at the hospital and she dies in his arms at the age of 39, in poverty and solitude.