Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Old-time Storytelling at Montego Bay Community College

Flyer for Ananse Sound Splash 2013

Amina Blackwood Meeks with her peas soup
An old-time Storytelling evening, mysteriously called “Gi Laugh fi Peas Soup”, was presented in the Montego Bay Community College Lecture Theatre on Friday, November 22nd, by the MBCC Performing Arts Society in association with Ntukuma (The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica) and the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica. It was the 8th leg of Anansi Sound Splash 2013* - an Eight Legged Storytelling Conference and Festival.
     After opening remarks by the energetic Philip Clarke, Amina Blackwood Meeks got the evening off to a rollicking start with us all skipping around to the born-in-the-month song. The MBCC Band gave a lively rendition of “Evening Time”, Tashelle O’Connor entertained us with Rolling Calf, and the drama group gave us an Ananse story.
     I read an excerpt from “Flash”, my short story which won a silver medal in the JCDC Creative Writing Contest 2010. I picked out a quarter of it, which I hope gave the gist of the story about a boy inspired by Usain Bolt. If you want to read the whole story, you can download it free from Smashwords 
Marline Stephenson Daley
     With Marline Stephenson Dalley’s side-splitting jokes, we had our laugh and were rewarded with peas soup, made by Andrea Nelson. After Eric Daley recited Easton Lee’s poem “My Mother”, Amina took the stage again with “Her Story”, challenging the audience with questions about customs of bygone days. She also plied us with riddles: “Riddle me dis, riddle me dat, guess this riddle and perhaps not”, or “parrats snap”, as she heard it, as a child. I was reminded of hearing the same phrase on the radio, in an advertisement for Grace products, when I first came to Jamaica. I wondered at the time what a “parapsnat” was! Amina rewarded those who guessed riddles correctly with pens from one of the sponsors.           
     Then she introduced the guest of the evening, Kenyan storyteller Mara Menzies. Mara maintains that stories should not be read but be told, eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart. She supported her theory with demonstrations of how to tell stories, with energy, with mime and movement, with variation in facial expression, and in pitch and rhythm of her voice. In her first story, a noisy bird, a banana tree and a turtle met their demise, while the little bug was able to get a good night’s sleep. Her second story, about how the cat came to live in houses, was applauded by all the women in the audience.
Mara telling a story
The remainder of the programme consisted of more performances by the band, another poem Eric Daley, two pieces by the Performing Arts Society, and “Peep Inna Mi Pot” by the MBCC Choir.
This most enjoyable evening demonstrated that we don’t have to go to technology for entertainment. A similar activity could take place in our own homes and communities. Thanks to Philip Clarke for organizing the event.
In attendance were Dr. Angela Samuels Harris, Principal of MBCC with her husband, Glendon Harris, Mayor of Montego Bay, Dr. Maureen Nelson, Vice-Principal of the college and Mrs. Barbara Nelson, recently inducted as an Honorary Fellow of the college, for her years of service to MBCC.

Anansi Sound Splash 2013 was endorsed by JCDC and The Institute of Jamaica. Supporters included Scotiabank, First Global Bank, RBC, British High Commission, The Gleaner and Irie FM. Mara Menzies was sponsored by the British Council. 
Mara and Amina
A member of the band
The MBCC Choir


Hazel Campbell said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all. I hope there were many children present to enjoy this.

Anonymous said...

This looks wonderful and fun :)

Helen said...

It was wonderful and fun. There were not as many children as there could have been. Perhaps if they do something like this again, it could be put on at an earlier hour and children specifically invited.
Mara gave me some good ideas for storytelling!