Monday, 2 November 2015

Telling stories

Last week I went to a story telling evening - invited to attend by a neighbour. None of us knew what to expect.

My neighbour thought that the storyteller, a woman she knows, would be telling stories of African folklore.

My mom thought it may be something along the theme of 'Whose line is it anyway?' where we, the audience, throw out words and the storyteller uses these to create stories.

Me... I was just keen to go along.

It turned out to be none of these.

The woman told us three stories. All three were from her personal experiences. No exaggeration. She has a wide vocabulary and good use of words to paint pictures.

The first one was quite funny and entertaining. The second one was fairly concerning, alarming and disturbing - about an experience she had in hospital at the Johannesburg General Hospital - now Charlotte Maxeke Hospital - back in the day when it was still called the Jo'burg Gen.

And the third story... We were all ready to get out of there during the story and by its conclusion we were just about digging under the tables for our bags to beat a hasty retreat.

Truth really is stranger than fiction and what some people (granted, the woman is more on the eccentric side of things than not) think is OK is not ok for everyone - that is a given.

There are definitely themes that are not appropriate for a wider audience, especially one that doesn't care for religious/ceremonial/cultural animal sacrifice. Also, what a person believes (gods, ancestors, Santa) is their thing.  Sangoma or not, I don't believe that spilling blood is necessary for speaking to ancestors. But, that's what I believe (and the other five women at the table with me) - but millions are OK with this.

For me, this is just not content for an evening out with friends, pizza and storytelling.

The only thing I did agree with the storyteller about is that storytelling is a very fine art. An evening spent listening to stories is a wonderful evening indeed. For me, that's what FEAT is about - a night of stories of adventures.

A while back I finished 'reading' Roald Dahl's 'The BFG' to Ruben (7) and Kyla (10) in installments - on nights when I was with them. English is their third language and it is not yet quite strong enough for me to read English books to them straight. So I use the book as a guide and tell them the story in Afrikaans. They loved it and towards the end proclaimed my Afrikaans "much improved". I recently started 'reading' Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree to them in a similar fashion. I remember very little from it - do you remember Moonface too? - so telling this story is as much a treat for me as it is for them.

Yes, storytelling - whether reading, making them up or relating an experience.

But, not all experiences make for suitable stories - depending on your audience.

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