Imbawula – Storytelling Night

Aluwani Ratshiungo

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Imagine spending an evening in a cosy and intimate basement sipping on a glass of wine(or whatever your cup of tea is) sharing and listening to stories. Stories that resonate… For those who still don’t know what Imbawula is, it is a storytelling initiative created by Random Window to nurture the art of storytelling and […]

Imagine spending an evening in a cosy and intimate basement sipping on a glass of wine(or whatever your cup of tea is) sharing and listening to stories. Stories that resonate…

For those who still don’t know what Imbawula is, it is a storytelling initiative created by Random Window to nurture the art of storytelling and encourage literacy in the country and their partner, Quarphix Foundation gives many disadvantaged young people a leg up and advances literacy through their Radical Dreamers programme.

The programme runs workshops around work, study and life skills; pays for professional tutoring and taking the kids out on experiential excursions. The foundation only gets proceeds from its founders, Quarphix Corporation and Imbawula proceeds.There is no cover charge but t-shirts are sold on the night and donations are accepted at the door.

Four storytellers, famous or ordinary, all get 10 minutes each to share their stories. The story could be sad, humorous, inspiring or shocking. Anything goes. The resident performer, Melo B Jones, performs a soulful set after the first two speakers and another one to close off the event.

Meet the storytellers that will be sharing their stories at the next Imbawula.

Siyabonga Mkhasibe, Photographer

Xhanti Payi, Economist.

Wendy Tlou, Entrepreneur.

Nadine Kutu, Videographer.


We sat down with the storytellers and asked them a few questions.


Siyabonga Mkhasibe, Photographer.
Siyabonga Mkhasibe, Photographer.

-What is your relationship with storytelling? Why do you think it’s important?

Xhanti Payi (XP): I’ve grown up with stories, and believe they have contributed immensely to my sense of imagination and intellectual development. I read a little and enjoy writing, especially in a format that allows the reader to grow a little more on the subject. I write a lot too for myself.

Wendy Tlou (WT): It’s a long and deep one. I was largely an only child – so I spent most of my time telling myself stories, making them up or reading. I don’t remember a time when I haven’t used storytelling to tell about ME. It’s the essence of me, it’s what I do for a living, but mostly, being African, it’s natural to me.

I have a story that I have been scared to tell for about 4 years now. It made me feel incomplete. Then happened to me, and the story now deserves to be told, heard. It’s a story that defined me for a long time, and perhaps shaped a lot of the armour I had created about myself. Now, it’s a story I know is worth telling.

Siyabonga Mkhasibe (SM): I’m a photographer by profession, with a strong interest in documentary photography, and one of the pillars of documentary photography is telling stories through a series of images. And I think photo stories are told for the eyes and I want to try and tell or translate a visual story for the ears at Imbawula.

Nadine Kutu (NK): My father is the greatest story teller I know, as a journalist I try to imulate his fantastic skill. I agreed to tell a story because I may never have an opportunity like this again (you know, YOLO)


Wendy Tlou, Entrepreneur.
Wendy Tlou, Entrepreneur.

-Do you have any memories of sitting around a fire or imbawula sharing stories? If not, what was the equivalent?

XP: Growing up, my mother always told us stories. Some were traditional stories about, about uMvolufu, uNomathemba and others. some she made up. Others she constructed for the purposes of disciplining us, which were followed by a whip. Of course there were stories from the bible which my grandmother told as if they were real and relatable people.

WT: Yes, my father is Mosotho and we travelled up the Mountains of Mafeteng to visit his family. There was none of the benefits of the township – if you can call them benefits – so no lights, so paved streets, no TV and one small radio that my father’s brothers would hog and listen to soccer. So all we had was stories = told through food, through words, through touch and through love. That’s the memories I have.

SM: I think gallery spaces are like huge walk through photo books, telling different stories on different mediums, that to me is on Imbawula status. lol!

NK From age 10 to 14 I would attend a summer camp (Sugar Bay). We would sit around camp fires singing songs and sharing stories however, my favourite stories will always be bedtime stories.


Xhanti Payi, Economist
Xhanti Payi, Economist

-If you were to host your own Imbawula and had to pick four storytellers for the night (famous or ordinary, dead or alive) who would make the list?

XP: Toni Morrison, Hugh Masekela, my friends Claude and Hlubi and some of the women I grew up around who could tell gossip as if they were part of the experience – vividly and with a strong sense of drama and comedy.

WT: Oh wow, only four! Maya Angelou for sure, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, David Adjaye (he tells stories through design and architecture) and Whitney Houston who told stories through music.

SM: I would invite, in no particular order: my mom (I really haven’t heard her speak about her life outside of her children and family), Pitika Ntuli, Malick Sedibe (would be interesting to hear stories of the Mali high life scene from back in his day) and Gill Scott Heron

NK: Detective Joe Kenda, Dame Judi Dench and David Attenborough.


-How can people contribute to the preservation of storytelling and in turn, literature?

XP: I think we need to spend more time hanging out and talking. I think Imbawula has a great format. But also, we need to spend more time starting book clubs and reading with young people. I enjoy that immensely.

WT: By having the audacity to think of ideas such as Imbawula and make them happen, the audacity to build channels like where we can tell our stories, record them, archive them and share them among ourselves and the world. By travelling and seeing other countries through the eyes of the people of that country.

SM: I think people need to realise that their life stories are worth telling to someone out there, so taking time to share your experiences through blogs, notes, photos etc will make strides in preserving storytelling and literature… oh and people should share stories in their own mother tongue it will also encourage others who would otherwise they can’t share because of the language barriers. 

NK: I think it starts with telling children bedtime stories. Lead by example, keep the youth captivated.  I don’t believe people who say they don’t like books or reading, I just believe they haven’t found the right book yet.

Nadine Kutu, Videographer
Nadine Kutu, Videographer

-Without giving away your story, what can we expect on Thursday night?

XP: I’ve recently started working for myself and the experience has brought back a lot of my childhood lessons and experiences, and so I’m going to share the personal story – relating my past to my present life.

WT: A story of birthing.

SM: I will attempt to tell a visual story… without the visuals. lol.

NK: Its about me…but what isn’t? (joke)


Venue: Bean Republic (81 Corlett Drive, Illovo)

Date: 7 MAy 2015

Time: 19:00 for 19:30



-Seats are limited in the cosy basement so get there early

-There’s a fully stocked bar

-Great coffee and food available till late