Culture

Tradition of storytelling returns to Mosul this Ramadan after ISIS

Iraq

A group of citizens from Mosul seek to revive the city's Ramadan heritage and rituals through bringing back the Kazkhoun or 'the teller of stories.' The storyteller has found innovative ways of bridging the past with the present.

Artists and volunteers in Mosul have worked together to reintroduce an old cultural ritual of communal story telling, which historically has taken place in the city every Ramadan.

The storyteller, known colloquially as the Kazkhoun or “the teller of the tales”, sits on a high sofa above a crowd of local families who have turned out to hear stories and take part in the songs and folkloric clothing that accompany the event.

“This is a popular cultural heritage”, said the Kazkhoun. “We wanted to revive it today in the holy month of Ramadan. We want the young people [of Mosul] to understand that that’s what we were and that’s what we have become”.

The revival of traditional storytelling in Mosul hopes to connect the past with the present and give the city’s young people a deeper understanding of their centuries-old culture.

Stories told by the Kazkhoun convey an important message to Mosul’s young people to stand by their city and address the social issues that have emerged following the defeat of ISIS in the city.

“We attract young people and tell them about storytellers and we teach them about tolerance and love,” said one of the organisers of the event.

The revival of Mosul’s traditional Ramadan storytelling has come as part of a cultural and economic resurrection for the city after more than three years of being subjected to ISIS’ oppressive and violent rule.

Under ISIS, many of the city’s Ramadan traditions were banned, with music and recreational public gatherings outlawed. The militants frequently carried out violent and archaic punishments, or even executions, on people who failed to properly adhere to the militant group’s twisted interpretation of Islamic Law.

With the city now free from the threat and tyranny of ISIS, the greatest legacy of the occupation will be manner in which the city’s residents have come together to denounce the extremist message of hate and division this Ramadan.