The biography of the Banu Hilal
Abdulrahman Al Shafi’i
The biography of the Banu Hilal is a folk biography that has been narrated for many years; it has been part of the collective conscience for generations. The biography is part of the Arab collective memory; when people face a crisis, they still refer to this tale of heroism.
The biography spread widely through Egypt after the defeat of the Arab revolution, and the Palestinians narrate and sing it. From Yemen to Tunisia and to the west of the Arab world, this biography is an important part of Arab oral traditions.
Narrators still talk about the wars of the two rivals, (the tribes of Banu Hilal and Zinati Khalifa who fought against Zinati’s knights and Yahlail), and they excel in describing the battles, characters and events.
It is not an easy task for a playwright to tackle the Banu Hilal’s biography with all its complex characters and events and diverse settings and time periods, but Yusri Al Jundi created a comprehensive biography with rich events and characters, and a play that reflects reality with all its contradictions. Al Jundi turned the biography into a play by using masks, narrators, personification and by setting it in a time and place, explaining the tribal conflicts from the time of the birth of Abu Zaid al-Hilali to the massacre and destruction that followed the invasion of Tunisia.
To convey the message of the narrative, Al Jundi summarised many of the events in the biography using poetic language with both standard and vernacular terms to create a spectacular play.