The Last Storytellers in Sicily


You can't say you know Sicily if you haven't experienced the thrill of discovering its traditions, the soul of Sicilian identity. Three are unmissable: the Opera dei Pupi Puppet Opera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008; the Tarantella, a dance in typical Sicilian folk costumes; and the Storyteller Tradition.

The beautiful and romantic figure of the storyteller takes us back to the gift of Ancient Greece: the singer who, like a prophet inspired by the gods, narrates stories handed down orally, reciting the poems like Homer did, with the melodious sound of the zither.

A real “professional” who evolves over time into the jester and mediaeval troubadour, expressing themselves by using dialects. Today, they’re the undisputed guardian of people’s literary, folkloristic and cultural heritage.

It’s an ancient art at risk of going extinct, which persists in Sicily thanks to the work and commitment of 22 living storytellers, 7 of whom are women, who, with dedication and passion for culture and traditions, carry out this wonderful profession.

Here is the Storyteller of Sicily! A street artist who recounts and sings the history of their own land, the myths and legends, as well as the news and current events. They bring with them a vast cultural wealth, ranging from oral tradition to verses written in hendecasyllables, to musical verses, accompanied by their own instruments and ghostly posters, handmade scenes done only by local artists. In short, a complete artist who still stirs up feelings and evokes beauty today.

And this is how popular and religious songs, stories and legends with monologues and poems, like La Baronessa di Carini, the Storia di Salvatore Giuliano, San Giorgio and Padre Pio are “revived” in the streets and in the squares; the Storia di Salvatore Carnevale by Ignazio Buttitta and Cavalleria Rusticana by Giovanni Verga, the folk songs and the most deeply rooted popular tradition such as lullabies, like i cunti by Giufà.

From the film I Cantatorie – directed by Gian Paolo Cugno

, the language and style of storytellers, Sicily’s intangible heritage, has today been protected and recognised by being inscribed in the Book of expressive arts and oral repertoires in the Sicilian Region. It’s a true expression of the cultural and social history of a civilization that tells and is told through these timeless artists.

(cover photo: Il Cantastorie Luciano Busacca – Associazione Gli Ultimi Cantastorie di Sicilia) (Last Storytellers of Sicily Association)

Learn more about Gli Ultimi Cantastorie di Sicilia (The Last Storytellers of Sicily).

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