Facilitated by Drama For Life (DFL) from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, the Storytelling Focus Day burst into action at City Hall today as DFL master’s students energetically invited audience participation right from the outset. The Grand Hall was overflowing with excited conversations as DFL students asked everyone to gather in groups to, first, share favourite fairy tales, and then, the stories behind their names. The room was abuzz with participants forging new friendships. It was fascinating to see how this simple act of sharing narrative developed an almost instantaneous feeling of camaraderie. This energy was only enhanced when music was played and the DFL students invited everyone onto the stage to tell their own story in an engaging and interactive format. Before the storytellers were allowed to reach their denouement, the narrator invited the audience to imagine their own ending to the story, as well as an appropriate title.
This energetic start to the day set a lively tone for the next session, Story Telling in the 21st Century, in which keynote speeches by Dr Gcina Mhlope (shown above), from South Africa, and Rives Collins, from the USA, succinctly detailed Why the World Needs What You Already Know. The presence of both speakers was magnetic as they cogently embraced the audience with their words, stories and songs. Although their presentations remained distinct from one another, both speakers recounted the significance of sharing, learning and connecting through the Art of Storytelling, emphasising that everyone has a story to tell and every story has the right to be heard.
“We make sense of the world through story… We are invited to trade place so we can see the world from a new point of view” – Rives Collins
“through stories you connect with people. Let the stories travel. Let the stories be heard” – Dr Mhlope
The audio recordings below contain most of Dr Mhlope’s speech, one which concluded with a standing ovation.
Part 1 (18 minutes):
Part 2 (19 minutes):
The sense of collaboration and sharing was maintained in the final Storytelling session I attended, What Gifts of Stories Did We Gather Today? DFL students concluded their performance by presenting a collection of ideas and the participant groups were invited to reflect and discuss upon the ‘gifts’ they had learned and imparted throughout the day. Some, for example, reflected on Dr Mhlope’s call to arms about the importance of protecting and respecting the Art of Storytelling, concluding that stories were significant chiefly because they can transcend cultures, ages and history.
“For as long as there are people on this earth there shall be stories” – Dr Mhlope
Overall, this Focus Day was a privilege to be a part of. Listening to and sharing with such passionate practitioners has reiterated to me the power that Storytelling has to provoke new ideas and ways of seeing and even experiencing the world.