Naqqāli, Iranian dramatic story-telling
Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
Country(ies): Iran (Islamic Republic of)
- Naqqāli, Iranian dramatic story-telling
Naqqāli is the oldest form of dramatic performance in the Islamic Republic of Iran and has long played an important role in society, from the courts to the villages. The performer – the Naqqāl – recounts stories in verse or prose accompanied by gestures and movements, and sometimes instrumental music and painted scrolls. Naqqāls function both as entertainers and as bearers of Persian literature and culture, and need to be acquainted with local cultural expressions, languages and dialects, and traditional music. Naqqāli requires considerable talent, a retentive memory and the ability to improvise with skill to captivate an audience. The Naqqāls wear simple costumes, but may also don ancient helmets or armoured jackets during performances to help recreate battle scenes. Female Naqqāls perform before mixed audiences. Until recently, Naqqāls were deemed the most important guardians of folk-tales, ethnic epics and Iranian folk music. Naqqāli was formerly performed in coffeehouses, tents of nomads, houses, and historical venues such as ancient caravanserais. However, a decline in the popularity of coffeehouses, combined with new forms of entertainment, has resulted in diminishing interest in Naqqāli performance. The aging of master performers (morsheds) and the decreasing popularity among younger generations have caused a steep drop in the number of skilled Naqqāls, threatening the survival of this dramatic art.
Decision 6.COM 8.9
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:
- U1: A form of dramatic story-telling of historical or fictitious narratives, Naqqāli was the main keeper of folk tales, ethnic epics and popular music in Iran; its theatrical conventions continue to inspire Iranian artists in their performances and serve as a source of Iranian identity;
- U2: Although a significant number of Naqqāli story-tellers as well as apprentices still exist, a rapid decrease in its popularity among young people and fewer opportunities to perform threaten the continuity of its transmission;
- U3: Safeguarding measures covering a wide variety of aspects involved in this element aim at strengthening Naqqāli transmission and performance; these measures are based on the participation of diverse parties, including the Naqqāls, researchers, local authorities and State offices;
- U4: The joint work of researchers and officials for several years has made possible the wide participation of the story-telling community in the nomination process and its free, prior and informed consent;
- U5: Naqqāli was included in 2009 in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, administered by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.
Inscribes Naqqāli: Iranian dramatic story-telling on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Encourages the State Party to ensure that financial resources are made available to implement the ambitious safeguarding plan that was included in the nomination;
Further encourages the State Party to give greater attention to raising awareness among the young, including educational institutions, in order to keep the story-telling art alive and maintain its interest among younger generations.
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