Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers

Discover Turkey and preserve storytelling tradition

Turkish Public Storytelling

The Art of the Meddah (Public Storytelling) may be described as the art of telling stories. Its most important component is the meddah (storyteller) who is the artist who tells various stories in public and entertains people by imitation.

Art of the Meddah

The Art of the Meddah (Public Storytelling) may be described as the art of telling stories for the purpose of entertaining an audience with impersonations and animation. It is a Turkish theatre form performed by a single storyteller called a meddah and practised throughout Turkey and Turkish speaking countries.

Through the ages, similar narrative genres have flourished due to interaction among the peoples of Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East within this wide geographical area.

Public storytelling, which places great value on the mastery of rhetoric, is highly regarded in Turkey. Some meddahs still perform at a number of religious and secular celebrations and appear on television shows.

Meddah (Storyteller)

The term meddah, can be translated as public storyteller. The meddah selects songs and comic tales from a repertory of popular romances, legends and epics and adapts his material according to the specific venue and audience. However, the quality of the performance largely depends on the atmosphere created between storyteller and spectators, as well as the meddah's ability to integrate imitations, jokes and improvisation often relating to contemporary events.

Historically, meddahs were expected to illuminate, educate, and entertain the people. Performing in caravanserais, markets, coffeehouses, mosques and churches, these storytellers transmitted values and ideas among a predominantly illiterate population. Their social and political criticism regularly provoked lively discussions about contemporary issues.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Art of the Meddah (Public Storytelling) was added to UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008 (originally proclaimed in 2003).

UNESCO Identity Card:

  • Official Name: Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers
  • Criteria: Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • Date of Inscription: 2008
Turkish Public Storytelling
The Art of Meddah Tradition