Creatives continue to tap into Ja’s culture of storytelling - Brings new meaning to Christmas with ‘Corona Chronicles’
Jamaica has a strong legacy of animated storytellers, from poets and playwrights to thespians and musicians, in all categories that are often described as colourful in their delivery. However, storytelling as a part of the culture has not been translated into the traditions of the present generation, even with the works of the late, great Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett-Coverley, and Barbara Gloudon, Dr Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Mutabaruka, Yasus Afari and Joan Andrea Hutchinson still carrying the torch by creating memorable pieces and projects.
Media personality and dancehall selector Richie Feelings tells The Sunday Gleaner that he grew up hearing the stories of his elders, which many times were shared as a form of entertainment in his family home. He said that being born in the 1970s and raised in the following decade, the novelties of smartphones and Internet were not available to children.
“There was radio as well, but there was not a lot of content that would interest children in terms of the content. Miss Lou paved the way. We used to sit down and listen to Bredda Anansi stories, which is a central figure in Jamaican folklore. In times when light gone, storytelling was the main means of entertainment,” Richie Feelings said.
He added, “This generation don’t know about the stories and those that eventually transformed into series like Lime Tree Lane or Oliver At Large; it would be good if TVJ could bring back these productions to television.”
The selector is one of several personalities featured on the upcoming presentation of ‘Long Story Short’. Others like actor and musician Everaldo Creary and radio announcer Joy Kelly are also on the line-up.
Richie Feelings explained, “It is an art that many like Johnny Daley, Ity and Fancy Cat don’t get enough credit for their expression. We were taught speech and drama in school to hone our vocal skills with the language of our bodies, because remember, to entertain one person is hard, so imagine an audience of 1,000 to 10,000.
“We need to reposition it into our culture, as we have lost much of our roots and the Internet plays a big part in that, that we get so Americanised. I’m not sure it is happening in homes, but it should because our elders have untold stories, unknown to the younger generation, and I personally have stories I can tell my children for days even though they are grown, but it’s something to look forward to,” he continued.
“Storytelling is a dying art form, which is deeply entrenched in our culture,” said the originator of the ‘Long Story Short’ series, Daniel Edwards. “It’s not only about the stories that are told, it is how they are told, and it is also a tool for healing while it preserves our history.”
Like Jonkanoo, Gran’ Market, Pantomime, Christmas dinners and church service, storytelling is embedded into Jamaica’s cultural landscape, and what once was a popular form of recreation may re-emerge to have a strong place in this holiday celebrations, said Edwards.
“There’s no leaving out that the pandemic has an impact on plans for the Christmas; truth is, there is no celebrating without mention of corona – people have stories to tell, and these will be shared for years to come,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Hence the theme of the upcoming ‘Long Story Short’ showcase, ‘Corona Chronicles: Comedy, Creativity & Catastrophe for Charity’, which is slated for Saturday, December 5. What premiered on the 100th birthday of Miss Lou and amassed an audience of nearly 300 persons has transformed into a safe space for creatives to share their truth and art in the format of a story.
Previous themes like ‘Love Lost and Love Found’ for Valentine’s Day featured the likes of comedian and actor Dufton Shepherd, who spoke of a break-up where he found himself crying in the shower, and motivational speaker Jeffery Azan and his story of literally falling in love with a former Miss Jamaica contestant and having his heart broken a week before he planned to propose.
With storytelling and undoubtedly the series, Edwards shared, “persons can expect authenticity, and they can expect more than just comedy; I say this because we have a tendency to lean on comedy, and while ‘Long Story Short’ has comedic elements, the stories dig as deep into experiences with abduction, mental illness that go into the broad emotional spectrum”.
“We’ve reached a milestone of a complete year where we provided a platform for a multitude of not only writers and creatives but entrepreneurs who wish to share their journeys, and the aim of the show is to tap into the households for our virtual staging,” he continued.
The virtual showcase, which is a twofold event – the celebration of its first anniversary and a charity event for the SOS Children’s Village in Stony Hill – will feature six storytellers who have contributed to the series, doing an encore performance.
“I am humbled that an event which was conceptualised during a chaotic time in my life could evolve into what it has; and more so that we’ve managed to keep it going during the pandemic by hosting mini-storytelling live sessions on Instagram with long-time contributors to the culture like Tony’ Paleface’ Hendricks, that, of course, were free but maintained the brand’s presence. We also qualified for the CATAPULT Arts Grant spearheaded by Kingston Creative and the American Friends of Jamaica, which shows there is a market and a place for storytelling as it merges with other artistic expression,” Edwards concluded.