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Ananse Sound Splash ‘Tell it for Haiti’

Published:Monday | November 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe
From left: Nomasa, Eintou Springer, Jan Blake and Denise Valentine.
Amina Blackwood Meeks
Michael Kerins
Yamina Clarke
Roy Rayon
A section of the audience reacts to a story being told.
Story Crafters (USA)

It was a gala evening of storytelling at Ananse Sound Splash 2016, An international storytelling festival and conference.

The evening's theme was Tell it for Haiti. The performers bearing folk and contemporary tales, catchy jingles and rhythms came from far and near to reinforce a cultural tradition that, some might say, has lost its edge to technology. But from the spellbound look and the at times laugh-out-loud responses from the mixed-age audience, it was clear that storytelling still has its place in Jamaica.

Among those in attendance was Dr Carolyn Cooper. She shared her views on the event with The Gleaner, saying, "I think storytelling is a wonderful art form. And it so good to see that Amina has pulled together people from across different cultures to celebrate this wonderful craft."

Myrtha Desulme` of the Jamaican Haitian society, in addressing the audience, voiced her appreciation for the festival organisers to embark on a venture to support her native country. She said the role Haiti played in history defined the culture of the region. Unfortunately, she said, the stories of Haiti are suppressed by the double-edged sword of technology instead highlighting the nation's reality TV President.

The evening, however, began with a welcome from Ananse Sound Splash director Amina Blackwood Meeks. She told the intimate gathering at the Little, Little Theatre that as a group of storytellers, they have grown into a nice family. She also acknowledged and thanked all for their support in helping Haiti.

Her fittingly titled story, One Hand Cyaan Clap, came after the intermission. In an almosst scripted-like timing, she started the song, eventually getting the audience to join her in singing. Satisfied, she commenced the patriotic Ananse story, encouraging audience participation throughout.




But it was the US-based Denise Valentine who got the storytelling feast started. Against the backdrop of a verandah setting, with her colleagues seated on stools on and off the verandah - on the steps and on the ground - the awardwinning storyteller began her act. It was a story on Ananse and Tiger's Soup, but ended up explaining why monkeys live in trees.

Trinidad and Tobago's Eintou Springer was next. She commenced with the traditional call and response associated with her country. Having established that she was there to tell a story, she went to the heart of the theme, 'Tell it for Haiti', by reading some of the Jamaican slave Bookman's famous lines to music while presenting the case for the Haitians. She asked, "What you going to do about Haiti?"

Michael Kerins, the first of the United Kingdom (UK) pair, followed. Despite saying he was not going to tell a story about politicians, he ended up doing just that. Working every level of the set, he had the audience cracking up about a poor politician's plight after he died.

Prior to Jamaica's Yamina Clarke taking the spotlight to tell of Banga's grandmother's state of alarm at encountering technology, another Jamaican, Roy Rayon, performed. The high-energy vocalist had the audience singing to some of his popular songs.

South Africa's Nomsa, UK's Jan Blake and the USA's Story Crafters were just as engaging and entertaining as their counterparts. Nomsa's village tale spoke of freedom to be who you are, and Blake's Ghanaian story implores the audience to listen carefully and take heed.

And so the closing of the fifth instalment of the festival was left up to the Story Crafters. Before telling their story to the beat of a drum, they voluntarily told the audience, "No we did not vote for him" (referring to US President-elect Donald Trump). They then delivered a fine performance, ending the third of the four-day festival on a high note.