An Ancient Lullaby from Mesopotamia in Shadow Theater

AMANILI SINGS/ אמנילי שרה

Music was composed for the lullaby and it is sung in Hebrew and Akkadian at the end of the show.


To watch a trailer in Hebrew click here



An ancient Akkadian saying:" May the baby slip out of the House of Darkness ( the womb) as quickly as a gazelle!!!"


Amanili and baby Elali (names were chosen from a list of ancient Akkadian names)


The show brings to life the story of a young couple and their village somewhere in Mesopotamia, 4000 years ago. It develops throughout 8 scenes that begin with the creation of the Mesopotamian world and ends with the birth of a baby that will only calm down if his mother sings to him.

When I first read the lullaby in its Hebrew translation, I was amazed to find it mentioned Enkidu. A figure dear to me since the time I formed part of a Shadow Theater group in Buenos Aires in the 70's, "Transparencias" and we created a Shadow Show on the epic of Gilgamesh (click here) I wondered what had Enkidu to do in a text meant to lull a baby to sleep?. There started my journey of research about the lullaby.

Lullabies are not stories mothers tell their babies. The last thing they want is to keep the baby alert and curious. It is her voice, the rocking and feeling of the mother's body that make the baby sleepy. As it falls asleep, mothers add their own words to the melody, whatever is in their minds, very often what worries them or makes them impatient....

I found out that Enkidu, the hero known for his strength, his connection with nature and animals and his unique friendship with Gilgamesh, is a figure that appears in many old sayings of the time. Mesopotamian women in the pangs of birth would cry out: " May the baby slip out of the House of Darkness ( the womb) as quickly as a gazelle!!!" and " May Enkidu's embrace not hold you back in the womb".

Enkidu was known to stay awake at night watching out against hunters, protecting the animals in the waterholes, so mothers would beg him" "Enkidu! If you stay awake please give your share of sleep to my baby!" also " Sleep my baby! May sleep get hold of you as strongly as the embrace of Enkidu!

All are visualized in the show:

Enkidu's embrace is an obstacle to overcome giving birth.

"May Enkidu's embrace not hold you back in the womb" ( another ancient saying)



Credits:

Akkadian lullaby: Anonymous. Mesopotamia, about 2500 BC.

Direction, Cutouts for Scenery and Shadow Puppets: Patricia O'Donovan.

Adaptation of the lullaby into a story: Patricia O'Donovan incorporating Akkadian sayings.

Music: Yarden Erez.

Metal work and body lamp: Mario Keizman.

On stage: Patricia O'Donovan and Yarden Erez

Production 2008: Train Theater of Jerusalem

Re-Production 2017: AMBULO company ( can be played in Hebrew, English and Spanish)

Acknowledgments

Lullaby: German translation of Akkadian lullaby by Z.A. Farber (*)

Hebrew translation: Nadav Linial

Consultants: Kamal Kizel, student of Babylonian language at the Department of Linguistics of Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ), Dr. Uri Gabbay and Professor Wayne Horowitz from the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at HUJ, Atida Braun German translator

Cuneiform clay replica of lullaby tablet: Dr. Uri Gabbay.

First production: Train Theater of Jerusalem 2008

(*) Farber, Z.A (1981) Baby –Beschworungen, 34-35.Literature: Farber, Antophos,85(1990), 140-143.( needs correction)


Each scene had a separate screen with black cutouts. The moving puppets were colored. I worked with a lamp attached to my waist to have free hands for the puppets.



Below: Yarden Erez who composed and played live the music for the show, and me.


Festivals:


Israel: International Festival of Puppet Theater, Jerusalem, August 2010

Israel: International Festival of Puppet Theater, Jerusalem. August 2009

Israel. Haifa International Festival of Children's Theater. April 2009

Israel: International Festival of Puppet Theater Public Works, Jerusalem.

August 2008

Israel: HOLON International Festival of Puppet Theater, July 2008

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