A Creative Reconstruction of Pre-Islamic Naghali
AffiliationSchool of Performing Arts
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Elnaz Sheshgelani
Naghali is one of the most ancient surviving forms of Persian dramatic performance and focuses on storytelling. Severe restrictions were imposed after the Islamic conquest of Persia (c. 651 AD) and Naghali was recently placed on UNESCO’s "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding". Only scant information remains about its pre-Islamic form. However, the subsequent changes were substantial because Islam proscribes many of the aspects that are believed to have been a part of pre-Islamic Naghali, such as dance, female performers, puppets, masks and music. The research described in this thesis adopts a practice-led approach that creatively reconstructs some of the lost aspects of Naghali, thereby synthesising new knowledge from the limited set of clues found in ancient illustrations from the Shahnameh (Persian Book of Kings). Because illustrations form the main source of information used for the reconstruction, this research focuses on the gestural, aspects of pre-Islamic Naghali, and a major research output of this project is the creation of the Naghali Gestural Vocabulary (NGV). The potential contribution of Naghali to Western dramatic arts is demonstrated through Naghali-based performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; an annotated video of one such performance accompanies this thesis and is an integral part of the research output.
KeywordsDramatic Storytelling; Naghali; Gestural Vocabulary; Ancient Theatre
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