Mesopotamian storytelling workshop, 1st November 2008

 
 

This workshop seemed doomed as we gathered in the street outside the door of the Poetry Cafe unable to gain access. There had been a misunderstanding about dates. It was a cold, wet and windy day. We could have gone our separate ways disappointed and cross. But intrepid Laura Collins and Ann Gilmartin went in search of an alternative venue and found the Sun pub. Was there a room at the inn? Yes, there was. The landlady welcomed us and, in return for a modest fee, lent us her upstairs Snug as the venue for the final afternoon of Discover Mesopotamia in Bloomsbury.

That afternoon, five new ZIPANG storytellers made their public debut by telling their chosen Mesopotamian story to an audience of curious listeners including an Iraqi visitor from Beirut and a contingent of Italians from Edinburgh.

Laura Collins and Emily Elizabeth told Etana. In their version of this tale, when the flying eagle tosses King Etana off his back and sends him tumbling towards the ground three times, each time catching him on the tip of his wing, it is in order to ‘toughen him up’.

Mohamed T. Ali, the self-styled ‘Poor Man of Essex’, introduced his retelling of The Poor Man of Nippur with the words ‘Once upon a time...’ in Arabic and Kurdish.

The Bull of Heaven was brought down to earth to destroy the city of Uruk by an angry Ishtar after insults from Gilgamesh and Enkidu, in Arabic by Badia Obaid and in English by Ann Gilmartin. We left The Epic of Gilgamesh with Gilgamesh and Enkidu celebrating their humiliation of Ishtar. This misdeed is one too many for the gods. As Gilgamesh, Enkidu and their party guests slumber, the gods decide which of the two heroes will never recover from his hangover.

Fran Hazelton told the Babylonian creation myth Enuma elish... (When on high...) with an accompaniment improvised by oud-player Khyam Allami and percussionist Vasilli.

‘The great god of the great city of Babylon was Marduk. Marduk was a fifth generation god, the son of Ea, the crafty god. Marduk created heaven and earth from the body of Tiamat, the tidal, salt water mother of all. Marduk created human beings from the blood of a killed god, Kingu. The great city of Babylon was built by the gods for the greatest of gods, Marduk.’

The final workshop of the Discover Mesopotamia in Bloomsbury project concluded with music from Khyam and Vasilli that brought balmy sunshine from the East into a dreary November day in London.

And so it goes on. The five new ZIPANG Mesopotamian storytellers were presented with Babylon mugs from the British Museum and Badia presented Fran with a bunch of flowers. Tara Jaff and June Peters were missed as they performed elsewhere, Tara in Manchester and June in Mexico.

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