Mar 232011

Last February, I attended a storytelling seminar-workshop at Museo Pambata where I met the woman who is, “the most well-loved storyteller of South Africa” – Gcina Mhlophe Becker. I arrived early and enjoyed looking at the artwork by children hanging on the walls. One by one, the participants arrived, found a comfortable seat, and read the kit that was given to us. Then, Miss Gcina appeared on the stage before us. She was unassuming and relaxed. With a big smile on her face, she greeted everyone and oh, what a very lovely and welcoming smile she had!

[slickr-flickr tag=”storytelling” photos_per_row=”6″ align=”left” items=”12″ thumbnail_scale=”110″ direction=”descending” align=”center”]
Photos of Storytellling Workshop at Museo Pambata with Gcina Mhlophe-Becker
Gcina outlined that she would focus on stories about family, animals, and the contemporary events. Then she related a family story of her own. She was unpredictable and mesmerizing. At first I thought she was just narrating a story, but suddenly, she added actions and facial expressions to her story, which really brought her mother to life! It was incredible! She showed us what storytelling is all about – performance. After a while, she let the members of the audience perform their own stories. From different perspectives, from different performances, I realized that being a storyteller is not as difficult as you might think. You already have what it takes to be an effective and extraordinary storyteller. You don’t need to wish you were another person to tell your story.

It was not just the storytelling performance that inspired me, but also the desire of Gcina to bring out and wake up stories within other people. There is something about her that makes you like her instantly – the way she smiles, the way she talks, and the way she listens intently to every word you say.

When I came back to Palawan, I knew I had another kind of story to tell to the children of Pulang Lupa and Little Tondo. Before I needed a book before I could even think about telling a story. I now have on-the-spot, natural storytelling skills. Now, when I sit with children, without any book at hand, I use my voice, my body, and enthusiasm to draw the children to the story. I am ready to tell stories even when I’m not really prepared. Even when I have no books with me.

I have also been able to share the skills I learned with other students. I held a storytelling seminar-workshop at Western Palawan University here in Puerto Princesa. At first, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to start the workshop. But then I remembered what Gcina had done to make everyone feel comfortable and confident. I made sure that like her, the students didn’t feel like they were at a workshop, but there to express a part of themselves. And it really worked. When it was the turn of the students, I was amazed by stories they had to tell.

I now see that storytelling is not just about books, but about the stories themselves. Indeed, stories are all around us just waiting to be told. All we have to do is have courage and confidence to tell them.


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