The Palestinian Hikaye
A Unique Narrative Tradition Practiced by Women
The Palestinian Hikaye: A Unique Narrative Tradition Practiced by Women
The Palestinian Hikaye is an extraordinary narrative tradition exclusively practiced by women. These fictional tales have evolved over centuries and shed light on current concerns within Middle Eastern Arab society, particularly focusing on family issues. Through the Hikaye, women provide a thought-provoking critique of society, offering a glimpse into the social structures that directly impact their lives. Many tales depict women torn between their duties and desires.
Traditionally, the Hikaye is narrated in the cozy setting of homes during winter evenings. These spontaneous and lively gatherings bring together small groups of women and children, creating an intimate atmosphere. Men seldom attend such gatherings, as it is considered culturally inappropriate. The power of the Hikaye lies in its expressive language, emphasis, speech rhythms, and vocal inflections, captivating the listeners and transporting them into a world of imagination and fantasy. The storytelling technique and style adhere to linguistic and literary conventions, setting it apart from other folk narrative genres. The tales are narrated in the Palestinian dialect, either in rural fallahi or urban madani styles.
Interestingly, nearly every Palestinian woman over the age of 70 possesses the skill of being a Hikaye teller, making it a cherished tradition predominantly carried on by elderly women. It is not uncommon for girls and young boys to engage in storytelling with one another, both for practice and pleasure.
However, the Hikaye is facing challenges and decline in recent times. The influence of mass media has led some to view native customs as outdated or inferior, impacting the traditional form and content of the narrations. Additionally, the ongoing political situation in Palestine disrupts the social fabric, posing another threat to the continuation of the Hikaye tradition.
Despite these challenges, the Palestinian Hikaye remains a valuable cultural heritage, offering insights into the lives and experiences of Palestinian women. Its preservation and appreciation are essential to ensuring the continued richness of Palestinian folklore.