August bank holiday weekend, I attended the Under the Sun Storytelling Festival, mainly to listen to Ben Okri and interview him because he is my favourite author and I grabbed the opportunity as it presented itself.
Ben Okri: We can not liberate ourselves with our stories until we get beyond our pain, our anger our….. which is residual because of the racial injustice underline. We need to get beyond!
Stories that free us are connected to what we really are and not how we perceive that we are perceived. It is the double nature of that perception, we need to get beyond. First we need to tell all of our stories, where we came from, where we are, to where we want to go. We need to include whatever our past is into our stories, we can not cut it off, we can’t just say our story starts here. The very nature of our story likes its roots, it likes its branches, it likes where the roots go, where the roots come from, we need to accept all of our past, that is the material of our story, with which to work toward the story of the future. The acceptance of our past with all its difficulty is what is going to liberate our present.
We should not be a people whose perceptions are merely historical but our perception should be imaginative. The first element is the imaginative reclamation of our own stories. The liberation begins with the move from the historical to the imaginative. People feel that when you make the move from the historical to the imaginative that you are betraying your personal story. That is not the case at all, I would say you are liberating your story, liberation begins not with history, but with imagination. We need to include in our personal sense of ourselves the storytellers of our past. We need to include the storytelling voice of our communities. We need to find our voice, the tone, the beat of our stories.
We tell stories to one another in the African and Caribbean community all the time, we are natural storytellers. We make a distinction between the stories as we tell one another and the stories of ourselves as we tell it to the world. I am saying we need to break that down, remove that wall so it is one in the same. Starting with the voice we use to tell stories to ourselves and each other, we need to reclaim that. That intimate, individual playful slightly jousted voice we use with one another, we need to use that voice openly so we can include the bigger story we are constantly trying to tell. I would like us to be a forward dreaming people rather than a backward looking people. We tend to be more backward looking, I don’t mean we are backward, I mean in terms of always looking over our shoulders. Bob Marley said, what he noticed when he first came to England, is people always look down when walking in the streets, people should look up. That is what I am trying to say. We should look forward.
Storytellers free a people, storytellers are the liberators of people. Stories show that in the life of a people there is continuity that is what stories do. We need more storytellers in our community. We need to let people know and be aware that there is this new unexplored possibility. Amongst all the other things you can be, an engineer, a doctor, dentist, lawyer, teacher, one of the other things you can also be is a storyteller. It is a noble thing to be, it is an ancient thing to be and it is a future sighted thing to be.
Griot Chinyere: Thank you!
It was an honour and pleasure to speak with Ben Okri. His words, have inspire and encourage my work further. Please join me on The Griot Way Storytelling Training, This weekly course set over 3, nine week terms is a time for participants to establishing their own storytelling voice and the creation of an original Afrakan story based on our infinte imagination.
ONLY £240 for complete course - Begins Thursday 3rd October 2013, from 6.30pm, The Albany, Douglas Way London SE8 4AG.