Storytelling magic in Mzansi

2010-05-12 12:24


It seems to me that storytelling in urban Mzansi is suffering from

hype overload.

Everywhere you turn, from the public broadcaster to a worn-out

tourism ad, we are told that storytelling – telling our stories – is important.

They say, ‘our stories in our voices, the need to tell our story’ –

it goes on. OK – we get it, but question is, who’s listening?

Seems to me, that in the midst of the bombardment of the hype

machines and glib speech references at cocktail events that we’ve become jaded.

It feels like we’re so busy running and being busy that we’re

almost numb to the essence, the beauty and the gift of story.

Capturing the magical essence that makes storytelling so special

requires time. The time to sit, listen and connect.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asking people to come and gather

in conversation and storytelling under a symbolic Baobab tree.

When asked about their personal memories of the Baobab tree, those

lucky enough to have experienced late-night folktales told by the elders as the

stars twinkled in the sky become misty-eyed.

As they flip through the memory files they smile.

Some tell me how they as children, also took turns telling stories,

how the values they learnt through ingenious fictional characters were so vivid,

they live on in spirit till today.

Many ex-Baobab aficionados are sad too, lamenting the apparent

difficulty in continuing a family tradition of storytelling in our modern-day

hectic lifestyles.

The twist is that we tell stories all the time, often, without even


We tell our stories with our clothes, actions and the choices we

make about taking time to be. I mean the time to be with each other and, scarily

for many, time with ourselves.

Telling the story is one thing, talk to me about the time to


For when do we take that step towards storytelling and listening,

we ignite a passion which is a life source.

When I take the time to listen to you and hear your story, I

recognise me in you.

That is the magical moment of connectivity in a story.

Those magical moments of time stolen in 24/7 barrack-berry activity

and masked in bejewelled time pieces.

Call it stress, ME or just plain being busy, the disconnect is


Come, let’s gather under the Baobab tree. I want to listen, I want

you to hear. I want to feel the magic of you in me.

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