The ZIPANG Mesopotamian storytellers June Peters, Fran Hazelton and Badia Obaid tell and teach others to tell stories from ancient Iraq through the art of oral storytelling. June and Fran tell and teach in English. Badia tells and teaches in Arabic

Who was Enheduanna?

The Enheduanna Society is a registered heritage education charity (registration number 1097515) founded in 2002 to popularise the literature of Ancient Iraq (Mesopotamia) through the art of oral storytelling. The woman it takes its name from lived in Mesopotamia in about 2300 BCE, and was the world’s first named poet.

Enheduanna’s surviving work, originally written in Sumerian, consists of three poems to the goddess Inanna and forty temple hymns. Click here for more information about Enheduanna: her life, her world, her poetry.

ZIPANG Mesopotamian storytelling

The ZIPANG Mesopotamian story­tellers began performing in 1997 when June Peters and Fran Hazelton told the Gilgamesh Epic at the Kufa Gallery in London, based on a new translation by Andrew George.

Since then there have been ZIPANG performances in private parties, story­telling clubs, Oxford, Cambridge and London universities, the October Gallery, the Hayward Gallery, the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum, the Story Museum, the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, the Reel Iraq Festival in Shoreditch, the Battersea Barge on the River Thames, and at a forest story­telling festival in Morocco.

ZIPANG storytellers make a unique contribution to the transmission of knowledge about ancient Iraq. They pass on by word of mouth the stories of Mesopotamian myths and poetry to those who want to know them.

ZIPANG Mesopotamian storytellers

The ZIPANG Mesopotamian storytellers first performed in 1997 at the Kufa Gallery in Bayswater, London. The original ZIPANG storytellers were Fran Hazelton, June Peters and Fiona Collins.

Fran Hazelton

Fran Hazelton is the grand-daughter of a music-hall entertainer. She studied politics, philosophy and economics at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, and the myths and rituals of the Ancient Near East at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She took up Mesopotamian storytelling in 1997 and is the author of two books of retold Mesopotamian stories: Stories from Ancient Iraq and Three Kings of Warka. Fran is also the chairperson of the Enheduanna Society.

June Peters

June Peters is a professional storyteller who specialises in ancient Sumerian stories as well as stories from other cultures. She has more than 20 years experience as a freelance performer, language and literacy consultant, and workshop leader using story and music. She interprets and facilitates public spaces through story—the British Museum (she once told a story in the old library in the presence of former US president, George Bush), Wisley Gardens, Kew Gardens and art galleries including the National Gallery, Saatchi Gallery and the Courtauld Institute. She is a past chair of the Society for Storytelling. Click here to visit June’s website.

Badia Obaid

Badia Obaid was born in Iraq and studied dramatic art at Baghdad University. She has a wealth of experience as an actor, presenter, writer and producer in theatre, radio, film and television. As an Arabic-speaking ZIPANG storyteller she developed a retelling of the Gilgamesh Epic for a performance at the British Museum. She is keen to communicate to a modern Arabic-speaking audience the Sumerian poetry composed by Enheduanna 4300 years ago.

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