Archive for June, 2009

Iranian Oral Storytelling

Memory of a Phoenix Feather: Iranian Storytelling Traditions and Contemporary Theater, an article by Niloufar Talebi in the July/August 2009 issue of World Literature Today.

Naghali Then and Now

A brief history on the story-telling tradition in Iran and how it has evolved:Naghali, Pardeh-dari, Pardeh-khaani, Ghavali (minstrelsy), Shahnameh-khaani, are Iranian story-telling traditions, practiced usually in the streets and coffee houses, story-teller titles varying according to their style of story-telling and the subject matter of the stories told. Pardeh-dari and Pardeh-khaani are visual forms of story-telling done before a big cloth or canvas (pardeh) hung in a square, or the walls of a tea of coffee house, painted on which are the events of the story being told, which the story-teller would refer to during their recounting.

Coffee house paintings are Iranian-style paintings, in the tradition of miniatures, but with European techniques and material, oil on canvas or cloth, which people in the streets and bazaars started to develop about 80 years ago. This was an attempt to distance art from royal courts and bring it into the hands of the people. Unknown artists who had gained experience in tile paintings, were inspired to create simple images on coffee house walls by the work of story-tellers and Shahnameh-khaans (those reciting the Book of Kings by Ferdowsi, which is in 50,000 couplets, and contains the history and epics of the Persian people from the Creation up to roughly the 7th C. before the Arab/Islamic invasion).

Further readings:

The Islamic Drama: Taziyah – by Jamshid Malikpour; The History of Theater in Iran – by Willem Floor; Coffee House Paintings – Iran Chamber Society

Battle of Karballa Royal Painting
Battle of Karballa Royal Painting

Pardeh of the same royal painting
Pardeh of the same royal painting

Naghali in a Cofee House (Ghahveh Khaaneh)
Naghali in a Cofee House (Ghahveh Khaaneh)

Naghali in a cafe
Naghali in a cafe

Pardeh-dari
Pardeh-dari

Naghali by females in Iran
Naghali by females in Iran

Morshed Torabi demonstrating Shahnameh Naghali
Morshed Torabi demonstrating Shahnameh Naghali

Female Naghal
Female Naghal

Our work is inspired by Iranian story-telling traditions. We perform new and contemporary Iranian poetry as our content, in both the Persian original and English translation. We also use multimedia video projections to create our Pardehs, and bring in other artists such as dancers and musicians on stage. We hope that this theatrical/literary tradition can find a place in American mainstream arts one day. To read about multimedia shows, ICARUS/RISE, and Persian Rite of Spring,  scroll down and visit links about the making of the show, the collaborative artists, and view youtube clips.

Niloufar Talebi reciting new Iranian poetry in Persian and English  translation
Niloufar Talebi reciting new Iranian poetry in Persian and English translation
ICARUS/RISE
ICARUS/RISE

ICARUS/RISE
ICARUS/RISE

ICARUS/RISE
ICARUS/RISE

ICARUS/RISE
ICARUS/RISE

Programs We Offer

Because of the multimedia nature of our work, we offer a variety of events that can be presented as stand-alones or in combination with other events.

1. Literary | Book events:

- Presentation from BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World by Niloufar Talebi (with and/or without poets)
- Screening of Midnight Approaches, DVD of short films based on poetry featured in BELONGING
- Panel of scholars/writers/poets/artists contextualizing this literature, etc.

2. Theater | Poetry performances:

- Performances range from full-scale theatrical productions of ICARUS/RISE, The Persian Rite of Spring, to smaller-scale versions of them.
- Custom-created poetry and/or storytelling performances, similar to above performances, by commission.

3. Residencies | Workshops:

- Multimedia expression
- Literary translation and advocacy
- Contemporary poetry outside Iran
- Variety of musical instruments, including Târ, Daf, Tonbak, Violin, Guitar and others.
- Middle-Eastern music and its fusion with other musical traditions, including western, flamenco, etc.

Contact us for information and bookings