Folktales vividly re-imagined in performances, book- PHOTOS - Daily Nation

Folktales vividly re-imagined in performances, book- PHOTOS

Wednesday December 19 2018

Muthoni Garland during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Muthoni Garland during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG 

By FAITH ONEYA
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By WANJIKU MAINA
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Hadithi HadithiHadithi Njoo! (Story Story, 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.

BOOK LAUNCH

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.

Internationally acclaimed bi-lingual storyteller Lillian Rodrigues-Pang during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Internationally acclaimed bi-lingual storyteller Lillian Rodrigues-Pang during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Kenyan storytellers included Muthoni Garland, Chomba NjeruLeonidah NanjalaWangari the Storyteller and Ernest Wamboye.

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.

INSPIRATION

The event is the brainchild of Maimouna Jallow, a Gambian storyteller based in Nairobi.

“Three years ago, I found myself wondering about what happened to East African folktales.  So I got onto this exploration journey and visited several villages hoping to speak to the elders and get these stories.

Children watch and listen as puppeteers hold an

Children watch and listen as puppeteers hold an interactive show during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

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 preserve 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.”

Children listen on as one of the children's books is being read during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Children listen on as one of the children's books is being read during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

It was a small affair held in Pwani but we managed to put out an online call for African writers who would be part of a two-year journey to create a collection of 12 African folktales,” she says.

SECOND EDITION

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.

Wangari the storyteller during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Wangari the storyteller during her performance at the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

“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  Maimouna who is also the editor of the anthology.

The event is the brainchild of Maimouna Jallow, a Gambian storyteller based in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

The event is the brainchild of Maimouna Jallow, a Gambian storyteller based in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

The audiobook for the same is also available and it features original music compositions by legendary Afro-Electro musician Franck Biyong and his team of over twenty musicians.

 PANEL DISCUSSION

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 panellistsAyuma 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.

Participants sample some of the books presented during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

Participants sample some of the books presented during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

“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 to be the ones making these pitches because they are our problems, our challenges,” urged Ayuma.

A participant gets her face painted during the

A participant gets her face painted during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG

According to Maimouna, 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.”

 


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