The Anansi festival in Kingston on Saturday afternoon, was a great deal of fun. Many children turned out and thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling. So,too, did the adults in the audience. The storytellers were very good and enlivened their presentations with a lot of interaction with the audience.
Unfortunately the link-up with a similar festival in Miami didn’t come off , so we didn’t get to see Geoffrey Philp launching his new book Marcus and the Amazons.
But back to the storytellers. It struck me again how different storytelling is from reading from one’s book for an audience.
Storytelling demands performance artistry. Constant interaction with the audience is key. The storyteller has to be sharp and utilize the mood of the audience to enhance the story. For example, one story teller, Adzika Simba asked a boy to be the goat in the story. He refused to get up but she wove him and his reaction into the story - to the amusement of the audience.
Another storyteller, Joan Andrea Hutchinson showed how Anansi looks when he is thinking up a plot to outwit persons in the story. “Hand at him jaw. Hand pon him head. Hand pan him jaw”.The children enthusiastically mimicked these actions everytime the story called for Anansi to think.
Amina Blackwood Meeks showed how cockroach did the Dinki Mini ( a traditional Jamaican dance ) and the boy called out to be cockraoch copied the dance to the delight of the audience.
Reading a story or part of a story from one’s book demands a different kind of presentation. Obviously one uses whatever opportunity presents itself for interaction with the audience, but since one is reading from the written word there is not much opportunity to ad lib and change the format, so a reading is rarely dramatic enough to engage all of an audience in the same way storytelling can. And this became obvious as the readers followed the storytellers. Children were listening, but were not as attentive or engrossed as with the storytellers. Many used the opportunity to visit the book tables on the outskirts and get their faces painted or watch a presentation on spiders put on by the Institute of Jamaica.
A good time was had by all. I was only sorry that I had to leave before it all ended. Congratulations to Kelly Magnus and the BIAJ. I hope this becomes an annual treat.