Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The South has a Good Story to Tell

Inspired after a weekend workshop with traditional storyteller Hugh Lupton, I came across this interesting article entitled 'The South Has a Good Story to Tell', which talks about storytelling in developing countries, and its use as a critical tool for passing on history, while teaching morals and ethics - so I would like to share it here with you. It's a nice surprise to see that this article appears in UNDP's South to South Cooperation unit newsletter. It gives an overview of storytelling in a number of countries, such as the movement of urban storytellers in Colombia, inspired by Italo Calvino; tale-spinners in Argentina; the halakis, or storytelling sages, of Morocco; and digital storytelling by women in South Africa.

Urban Storytellers in Colombia

By blending together ancestral and post-modern tales, these student storytellers are luring Latin Americans back to listening to stories. Live storytelling, when done well, has an ability to connect with other people like no other medium. This new generation also is helping make Colombia a gathering place for storytellers in Latin America, expressed in events like the Hay Festival Cartagena, a literary event that draws authors from around the world. The world centres of storytelling are very much focused on the South. The International Congress of Oral Storytelling, part of the Buenos Aires Book Fair, has been running every year since 1995. At the Congress, tips are exchanged over the subtle tricks of timing and voice, gestures and facial expressions. Other Southern cities with storytelling events, include Bucaramanga, Colombia, Monterrey, Mexico and Ag├╝imes, in the Canary Islands.

The Halakis of Morocco

While young people are breathing new life into storytelling, Morocco's legendary storytellers have been facing a common dilemma seen across the developing and developed world: how can they compete with flashier and more distracting pastimes like computer games and TV? Illiteracy in Morocco affects 40 per cent of the population, so telling stories is an excellent way to reach this non-reading group. Stories and parables have long been seen as a great way to convey ideas, values and philosophies. But Morocco’s storytelling sages, or halakis, are using their heads and turning to computers to get their stories told, and prevent their thousand-year tradition from dying out. With the help of UNESCO, the halakis have created a digital archive of their stories in audio and video.

Digital Storytelling in South Africa

In South Africa, digital technology is also breathing new life into storytelling – and infusing the stories with urgent, contemporary issues like HIV, and domestic and sexual violence. South African women are using digital technology to preserve traditional storytelling: A collection of 15 digital stories – called “I Have Listened, I Have Heard” - made in 2006 are being distributed along with books. They assembled the stories using audio recorders and made movies of the readings with digital cameras. It was funded by the Foundation for Human Rights and made at the Women’s Net Computer Training Centre in Johannesburg. The storytellers worked together on each script, taking a day. They would tell the group a story focusing on particular experiences or meaningful moments in their lives. The group would comment and draw out the best bits of the story. The whole process helps the story teller to flesh out the story with metaphors, narrative techniques and milestones.

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