, ! (, Story Come!) is a common refrain that rang out in homes and classrooms all over Kenya back in the day.
The refrain often signalled the beginning of a juicy folktale. Sadly, this oral tradition is dying.
But a group of storytellers won't let it die and want to revive the magic of folktales.
The culmination of this revival was a whole day storytelling event and book launch on December 15, at Alliance Française, Nairobi.
The event featured storytellers from Morocco, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Australia and Kenya.
Kenyan storytellers included Garland, , , the Storyteller and Ernest .
It was a full-day family event with a number of activities that not only included performances but also had a reading nook, audio booth and interactive workshops on puppetry, illustration and dance.
The event is the brainchild of , a Gambian storyteller based in Nairobi.
“Three years ago, I found myself wondering about what happened to East African folktales. So I got this exploration journey and visited several villages hoping to speak to the elders and get these stories.
In some villages, I didn’t meet the elders and the next generation I spoke to—people in their 40s and thereabouts—could not remember these folktales.
That really scared me because it meant that once the older people die, we would lose these stories forever.
The other thing I discovered was that the stories I managed to find—the ones that had very powerful messages and moral teachings—were very much set in their time and place.
I felt that to our oral tradition, we needed to re-imagine folktales in a way that spoke to the current generation. It is with this insight that I brought together a team and launched the first edition of “The Re-Imagined Storytelling Festival.”
It was a small affair held in but we managed to put out an online call for African writers who would be part of a two-year journey to create 12 African folktales,” she says.
The first edition of the festival was held in 2016 and it brought together a small group of creatives from different parts of Africa for the sole purpose of reviving storytelling.
They made a call-out to all African writers to make submissions from which 12 stories would be selected to compose a collection named Story, Story, Story come—12 Re-Imagined folktales from Africa.
They received 100 entries from across the continent.
The book was launched at the storytelling event.
“We wanted a collection that would speak to current issues that we face in society today. Many of the protagonists are young girls. I describe it as a feminist, Pan-Africanist, Afro-centric collection,” said who is also the editor of the anthology.
The audiobook for the same is also available and it features original music compositions by Afro-Electro musician Franck and his team of over twenty musicians.
A panel discussion during the event shed light on the important role of folktales today as a powerful tool of examining and criticising history.
One of the , Michelle, a Pan-African storyteller who firmly believes in the barrier-breaking power of African stories, appealed to the audience to embrace problems and talk about them instead of letting people from outside Africa share our problems and make profits of these stories.
“We need to own our problems. People come here in Africa, they see our problems then go to pitch them to Silicon Valley and get some serious funding to come solve our problems. We need the ones making these pitches because they are our problems, our challenges,” urged .
According to , the ship is not sailed; there is a global revival in the art of storytelling.
“Telling a story is not difficult, it only requires us to tap into that inner child in us and overcome our shyness. Enjoy it, get silly with it, feel it in your body, feel it in your bones and the story will come out.”