Palestinian Hikaye

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)

Country(ies): Palestine



Palestinian Hikaye

The Palestinian Hikaye is a narratiave expression practised by women.The fictitious tales, which have evolved over the centuries, deal with current concerns of Middle Eastern Arab society and family issues.The Hikaye offers a critique of society from the women’s perspective and draws a portrait of the social structure that directly pertains to the lives of women. Many tales describe women torn between duty and desire.

The Hikaye is usually narrated at home during winter evenings, at spontaneous and convivial events attended by small groups of women and children. Men rarely attend, as this is considered inappropriate. The expressive power of the narration lies in the use of language, emphasis, speech rhythms and vocal inflections as well as in the ability to capture the attention of the listeners and successfully transport them into a world of imagination and fantasy.The technique and style of narration follows linguistic and literary conventions that set it apart from other folk narrative genres. The tales are narrated in Palestinian dialect, either in rural fallahi or in urban madani. Almost every Palestinian woman over the age of 70 is a Hikaye teller, and the tradition is primarily carried on by elderly women. It is not unusual for girls and young boys to tell tales to one another for practice or pleasure.

However, the Hikaye is in decline due to the influence of mass media, which often induce people to regard their native customs as backward and inferior. As a consequence, the elder women tend to change form and content of the narrations. The continued disruption of the social life due to the current political situation in Palestine is another threat to the continuation of the Hikaye.



These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website

Safeguarding project (11-2006/09-2008)

The Hikaye narrative presents fictitious and contemporary issues of Palestine society from the perspective of women storytellers. Narrated in colloquial Arabic, its expressive power lies in the use of language, speech rhythms and vocal inflections.

A global action plan was elaborated to ensure the safeguarding of the Palestinian Hikaye as a form of oral expression through training, scientific research and archiving as well as support to the ongoing practice of the narratives. The aim is to bring together the largest possible number of community members and institutions involved at different levels in the study and practice of the Palestinian Hikaye, and coordinate their efforts within a national endeavour to identify and revitalize it. Various funding sources have been identified to finance the implementation of the action plan. The current project focuses mainly on research and archiving. It will ensure the proper documentation of the Hikaye through audio and visual recordings of tale telling in different geographical areas, including refugee camps. It also includes the creation of a national archive as well as awareness raising activities.