Last week Thursday I was at the third instalment of Imbawula, the storytelling initiative hosted by Random Window and Quarphix Foundation.
There I was, cross-legged on the floor chuckling away at Nadine Kutu’s story about how after many disappointment filled birthdays, she came to the conclusion that the only purpose of birthdays was to remind us who cared and all the while I was thinking about the question posed to me earlier, “So, when are you telling your story?” to which I promptly replied “HELL NO!!”
I know what you’re thinking. “She’s scared of public speaking.” But I’m not! Thanks to my Grade 9 English and Maths teachers who just decided, without my permission, that I was fit to stand in front of every class (all five of them) in my grade and explain how I solved the simultaneous equation or give my interpretation/summary of Macbeth despite the fact that I was the shy newcomer.
While I was busy forgetting to record an audio of Nadine’s story for you guys (harde!) I kept wondering what my story would be if I decided to be a sport and take Siphiwe up on the challenge. Each time the crowd burst out laughing at Nadine’s witty remarks I remembered just how dry my humour was. I could already see myself standing up there with crickets as my backing track.
In true Queen form (she did have the crown) Nadine ended her story by basically ordering us to sing her a birthday song as it was her 21st birthday on the night!
“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see,” said Siyabonga Mkhasibe quoting one of his favourite photographers/photojournalist, Dorothea Lange. Being a photographer himself, Siyabonga managed to tell a visual tale, poetically giving us a peek into his life. It was a beautiful and touching story about seeing with his family as the subject.
“Aha! I don’t have to tell a funny story. I can just talk about my family,” I thought. It then dawned on me that I could not possibly fit my father’s 10 children and my step father’s seven into the 10 minute time limit. Besides I’m no photographer, I don’t know how to describe people like photographs. I was really not winning at this!
The timing of the musical break by the insanely talented Melo B Jones couldn’t have been more perfect cause my head was about to explode. Melo has a beautiful contraption that she uses to record her own back up vocals live and manages to play them back while belting out beautiful notes. She gives me goosebumps every time she performs. Her cover of Sisqo’s Thong Song blew everyone away!
Wendy Tlou shared a very personal tale about birthing. Despite the fact that she found out she could not give birth due to an operation she previously underwent, she still gave birth, unconventionally, to ChicAfrican. “I’ve stopped living according to societal limitations.” There were many quotables from Wendy’s story but this was my personal favourite.
Xhanti Payi was the last storyteller and he told us about the journey that led to him becoming an Economist. The story made me think about how people always say that everything that happened in our past was preparing us for the future. One can say that by Xhanti helping his enterprising mother and grandmother collect money from their debtors at a young age instead of playing in the street with other children; he was being prepared for his career as an Economist.
The night came to an end and I was thinking…Damn these people have some experiences! How is little old me supposed to come up with such compelling stories? I’ve only been alive for 23 years. Minus the first three or four years that I can hardly remember, I only have 19/20 years and that’s if I don’t minus the +/- 67 000 hours spent sleeping.
What I was forgetting however, is that the thing that made those stories work was not how funny, personal, deep or poetic they were. It was the art of storytelling. These four storytellers managed to take their day to day realities and formed a narrative that captivated the listener.
The beauty of Imbawula is that it’s not a competition. It’s about giving people a platform to have a retrospection and/or introspection of sort and hopefully inspire other people. And that’s not even the best part! The best part is that people get to donate money to a very worthy cause.
Does this mean I will be telling a story at Imbawula? Maybe. I still need to find my story. What’s your story?
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