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Hakawati: the ancient Arab art of storytelling

April 9, 2014 4:42 pm


For centuries the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East region have been the sources of legends, fables and tales of the adventures of kings and warriors. For generations, the tradition of oral storytelling was a powerful medium for narrating the drama inherent in these tales and breathing life into them.

The storyteller who represented the collective genius and fantasies of his people would, with his way with words, spin yarns and breathe life into the heroes of history, fables from the Quran and legends and myths about warriors – bringing a piece of the past to life for his avid listeners.

Tales within tales

One of the most revered traditions of oral storytelling is the hakawati. As intricate and complex as a weaving pattern, this motif-rich narrative style darts in and out of stories, offering unending drama where the storyteller begins one tale, deftly leaves it mid-way to pick up another and then has a third story emerging from a subplot of the first and so on. All this is done using the tools of allegory, folklore, satire, music and a visual spectacle of grand sweeping gestures and facial expressions to finally create an enthralling experience for his listeners.

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Hakawati: the ancient Arab art of storytelling



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