Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Storytelling is alive and well

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberly Small/Gleaner Writer
Amina Blackwood-Meeks.

The late, great Lousie Bennett-Coverley championed the use of Patois as an apt, funny vehicle for storytelling. Today it's an art form Dr Amina Blackwood-Meeks continues to employ.

Dr Blackwood-Meeks recently co-hosted the Seville Emancipation Jubilee, where she wove tales of Anansi and gave factoids of Jamaican history between segments to a rapt audience.

She told The Gleaner, "I have been doing a storytelling festival since 2003. In 2014, we persuaded the governor general to proclaim November 20 National Storytelling Day."

The Ntukuma Storytelling Foundation, which includes Dr Blackwood-Meeks, has at least two storytellers based in each parish who work consistently with parish librarians throughout the year - a pool from which they are able to designate stand-in storytellers if foundation members are unavailable.



 For the seven-days long festival, international tellers are invited from Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean to join forces. Then, on November 20 (which the festival's schedule is planned to include), members of the storytelling fraternity visit all the parish libraries islandwide and simultaneously execute storytelling workshops.

"I'm always surprised by the turnout. The libraries are packed," Dr Blackwood-Meeks reported. "Senior citizens come out and interact with the children. We make sure that senior citizens are here. It's critical not just that they tell stories, but that they tell the stories that we don't know anything about."

She continued, "We are the ones who have to collate that history as they tell it us - how they lived, what they valued. Those stories are more important, in a way, than Ananse; stories. The quality of their experience is an important part in how we build ourselves going forward," she continued.

"When we go up into St Ann, people can show us where there were no roads before - things we wouldn't know. When in Kingston, people can describe Race Course or when Coney Island came to Jamaica. Those things are seldom written."




Earlier this year, Blackwood-Meeks brokered a partnership with the Bank of Jamaica to refit their lunch-hour concert with story telling for Child's Month.

"We also brokered a relationship with Liberty Hall, and we did a couple end of month storytelling sessions," she revealed. The National Storytelling Day leg of the festival is hosted at Liberty Hall.

"Work is being done, and the children are benefiting. And I know the children are hearing stories from other people because when they come, they want to tell stories. There is a lot of life in our storytelling tradition."