Mahmud Maddah, Living Bearer of Intangible Heritage, dies at 79 

July 9, 2021 - 18:37

TEHRAN – Mahmud Maddah, an Iranian artist who had been named a Living Bearer of Intangible Heritage for his pardeh-khani performances, has died of heart disease. He was 79.

He was living in Vazvan, a small town in the central Iranian province of Isfahan, and received the title along with his brother, Ali, on February 28, 2018, Shahinshahr Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handcrafts Office director Javad Chehrazi announced on Wednesday.

“These brothers had learned the art from their father and their ancestors such as Khadbakhsh, Hosseinali, Yadollah and performed naqqali and pardeh-khani across the country for over 70 years,” he added

Pardeh-khani is a form of traditional Iranian storytelling which is performed by a pardeh-khan (scene narrator) or morshed. It is a form of naqqali, Iranian dramatic story-telling that is mostly dedicated to tragic stories of Muslim leaders, especially the Imams of the Shia.

In a letter of condolences published on Thursday, Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handcrafts Deputy Minister Mohammad-Hassan Talebian said, “Master Mahmud Maddah and his brother made great endeavors to protect the art of naqqali and pardeh-khani with performances on religious events, especially on the Ashura event.”

Naqqali is the oldest form of dramatic performance in Iran and has long played an important role in society from the courts to the villages.

It was added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2011. 

The organization inscribed the art on its list for the Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2020. 

The performer – naqqal or morshed – recounts stories in verse or prose accompanied by gestures and movements, and sometimes, instrumental music and painted scrolls.

Naqqali requires considerable talent, a retentive memory and the ability to improvise with skill to captivate an audience. 

Naqqals wear traditional Iranian costumes, but may also put on ancient helmets or armored jackets during performances to help recreate battle scenes.

Naqqali was formerly performed in coffeehouses, tents of nomads, houses and historical venues such as ancient caravansaries. 

However, a decline in the popularity of coffeehouses combined with new forms of entertainment has resulted in diminishing interest in naqqali performances.

In addition, the aging of master performers and the decreasing popularity among younger generations have caused a steep drop in the number of skilled naqqals, threatening the survival of this dramatic art.

Photo: This file photo shows Morshed Mahmud Daddah performing a pardeh-khani show. 


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