popularising the literature of ancient Iraq through the art of oral storytelling



The literature of Mesopotamia has lain dormant on clay tablets for more than 2000 years. Breathing new life into this literature through the art of oral storytelling is the ZIPANG mission.

This Young Roots project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq runs from May 2015 to October 2016. It provides registered project participants with a variety of opportunities to hear, interpret, explore, renew and pass on to others the 3000 year old Gilgamesh epic.

Visits to the British Museum introduce young people to the material heritage of the Gilgamesh epic. They see the clay tablets on which it is written in cuneiform script, handle ancient miniature heads of one of its main characters, and meet curators.

Young people can actively engage with the cultural heritage of the Gilgamesh epic in Heritage Activity Sessions at the Iraqi Cultural Centre in London. The heritage activities include story-listening, story-telling, learning to write cuneiform signs, and creating pictures, poems, animations and videos of the people, places and episodes in the Gilgamesh epic.

The heritage output created by the young people will be displayed at two exhibitions. The first of these will be a traditional art exhibition at the Iraqi Cultural Centre in London. The second will be the online exhibition of a narrative website on which a 21st century version of the Gilgamesh epic is created from contributions by young people. This will remain online for at least five years.

Mission Statement

The ZIPANG vision inspires the ZIPANG mission. ‘ZIPANG’ is the Sumerian word for ‘breath’.

The ZIPANG mission is undertaken by the Enheduanna Society, an education charity founded in 2002. To fulfil this mission, the Enheduanna Society—

• provides ZIPANG storytellers booked for public and private events organised by others

• publishes retold stories from ancient Iraq

• passes on Mesopotamian stories and storytelling skills to a new generation of ZIPANG storytellers

• promotes and organises ZIPANG storytelling activities for all ages and abilities

• brings together Iraqi and non-Iraqi scholars, storytellers, musicians and enthusiasts to develop their shared appreciation of Mesopotamian literature, and spread this appreciation to as many people as possible.

The ZIPANG storytellers depend for their performance material on the work of academic translators and teachers.

Visit the Enheduanna Society’s Online Art Gallery to view exhibitions of contemporary art inspired by ancient Mesopotamian art and mythology.

Click here to find out how you can support the work of the Enheduanna Society.

The Enheduanna Society has received generous support for ZIPANG events
and projects from several organisations.