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Jamaica’s National Storytelling Festival In Progress

International Storyteller, Dr. Amina Blackwood Meeks. Photo credit: Yhomo Hutchinson/JIS.

Jamaica’s National Storytelling Festival In Progress

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Tuesday, November 16, 2021) — The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica, Ntukuma, in association with the Jamaica Library Service, is presenting the National Storytelling Festival and Conference, Ananse Soundsplash 2021, from November 16 to 22, under the theme ‘Visiting With The Elders’.

Founder and Festival Director, Amina Blackwood-Meeks, told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) that the Storytelling Festival has been going on since 1998; however, in 2012, it was rebranded, in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence.

With that rebranding, a conference component was added to the festival, hence positioning storytelling as source and resource for personnel, community and national development, and also placing storytellers as development workers, whose tools just happen to be stories, Blackwood-Meeks explained.

Describing the upcoming event, she noted that similar to Ananse, the Festival will have eight legs, with each leg representing an activity, over the seven days.

“As the overall theme, ‘Visiting With The Elders’, suggests, each leg will interact with a different elder, either in person or through memories,” she elaborated.

Today (November 16), in the first session, ‘Ananse Goes to the Gala’, children will interact with a Ghanaian Professor of African History, and Culture and Religion. They will have the opportunity to ask questions about Ananse, what it means in that culture, and to see whether, as Jamaica, they have the same idea or the use of Ananse and storytelling.

The focus will be on Jamaica’s culinary heritage and food security on November 17, and the University of the West Indies (UWI) will host a session on the value of Indigenous Language in Storytelling for Children, on Thursday, November 18.

Friday, November 19,will be observed as International Men’s Day. The focus will be on male storytellers.  With support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, students will have the opportunity to log on to Ananse Soundsplash and listen to stories, told by Jamaican men.

National Storytelling Day will be observed on November 20. Jamaicans are being asked to organise events to include children to honour their right to education and heritage and culture. November 20 is also celebrated as Universal Children’s Day.

According to Dr. Blackwood-Meeks, the curtains will come down on Sunday, November 21.

“We are going to be examining our stories, telling stories to see what in the stories inform us about care of the environment, about clean water and clean air. I hope we will be able to come up with a better understanding of the resource that our traditional stories provide for us to live as decent human beings, and as an avenue to learn some of the lessons you learn about personal and national development,” she noted.

The main sponsor of the festival is the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). Digicel Foundation along with CIBC and Jamaica National Bank will also lend their support.

The public can participate in these activities, via the Facebook and YouTube channels of the Jamaica Library Service. The festival will also be carried, live, on the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) and the delayed format on its social media pages.

Schools are being encouraged to establish a storytelling club, launch a storytelling competition by grades, have students dress as, and discuss, their favourite characters from Jamaican folk tales, and mount an exhibition about Jamaican storytellers.

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