Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stories of Africa, and telling them


I was recently invited to do a guest blog by Karen Chace. In it I discussed the use of images during storytelling sessions and my hypothesis that they may have a very ancient origin that goes back as far as the artists who made petroglyphs and pictographs. Some of the art work is of stunning quality, and as good an example of that as any lies in the extraordinary Chauvet caves of southern France, a subject I have blogged about before .

Giraffe, eland and freinds at Twyfelfontein
Of course these are not the only examples of cave art. I have chosen this one, a photo taken at Twyfelfontein in Namibia because of what comes below.

You can easily link to that guest blog here.

I posted the link to several of my contact pages and it has generated a lively discussion on one of the LinkedIn ones. a members only group one can join StoryTellers - The Oral History Group.
A general conclusion is emerging that there are many ways to tell stories and we should open our minds to them.

I mentioned that I use both oral and visual telling techniques, sometimes in one presentation. For those who use PowerPoint (the latest evolutionary form of cave art) this is simply done in the middle of a talk by hitting the “B” key (I'm a Mac guy, don't know about PCs). The screen goes blank and one can then step up and let the audience focus solely on the teller. Hit the “B “ again and one is back to the picture.

Here is a brief example from a recent school tour. Using no pictures I opened with a bit about myself and how my first memory was of a giraffe’s legs heading away through the trees. Then I told the children about my return to Kenya after vet school in Glasgow and how the very first animals I saw were three giraffes peering at me from inside Nairobi National Park.

Next up was a description of how, three days after arriving as an intern at the Kenya vet school I had to treat a giraffe with footrot. This term is self-descriptive, and needs no gory technical explanation. However, some of my audiences have been in rural schools and many of the kids knew exactly what I was talking about. Of course this gave me the chance to link to their own experiences of watching a vet or parent medicate a cow with the condition.

This let me describe the problem of injecting a giraffe and let me use this phrase: “Of course there were as many giraffe in Glasgow (where I graduated from vet school) as there are in "Homeville" (name the community I'm in). I then climbed the imaginary walls of the chute where the giraffe was standing to inject him high above my head. (Actions: climb, stretch, grunt, inject)

With the three giraffe images now established I switched to the old folk tale about how the giraffe became so tall.  It involves a conversation with an owl, a long walk, a witch doctor, a magic potion and the failure of giraffe’s friend the none-too-intelligent rhino, to arrive on time at dawn to get his own helping of the potion.

Of course this set up later folk story about another stupid rhino, again told after the “B” has been touched.

After that fun account I ran the projector again and showed the kids an entirely silent movie clip that I made myself in the early 1970s of rhino capture. It runs about 4 minutes and as it has no script I made the odd remark, telling the tale of how and why we did the work. I can't add it here, but if you haven’t seen it, it lies embedded under the video tag on my website. The kids were enthralled.

Mum waits in case the little guy needs help. He didn't
To wind up this post I have added a few pictures that I showed the children. These ones were of the Aaaah, or Ooooh variety and needed few words. They are examples of things that the kids may not have seen or can enjoy for the images' own sake.

The shy little girl with her Teddy Bear, knitted by ladies of a group who call themselves "Teddies for Tragedies" is probably receiving her first ever gift. She is one of 147 kids in an AIDS orphanage school we linked with and supported.

I showed the baby rhino being bottle fed after the capture movie. A winner!

 
This is a humorous one, again needing no script.  As one teacher said to me after the talk, "Anything with bums or poop stories will be a winner."

If it itches, scratch it.