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Ancient tales, take me home

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) For 65-year-old Larry Walsh, an Australian Aboriginal cultural leader and storyteller, the pulse of his people’s 60,000 year-old oral story-telling traditions easily sync with the beats of a new-age DJ.

After all, working with the young is what will ensure that age-old oral traditions of the Kulin Nations Dreamtime (South Eastern Australia) are carried into the future.

Fondly addressed as “Uncle”, Walsh, who is in the Capital to attend the 12th edition of the three-day International Storytellers Festival that began on Friday at Sunder Nursery, and has been telling stories for the past 30 years, told IANS, “Through these ancient tales, we also shed light on what is happening today. It is a great lens for looking at the contemporary. For example, I may talk about the Koala, an animal known for not drinking water except in exceptional circumstances. Isn’t this a great way to talk about the severe water shortage in present times, no.”

Believing that it is important for youngsters to know where they come from, Walsh feels that knowledge of literature and the arts ascertain a certain depth in people.

“The feeling of being rooted also makes them less angry. I want communities, especially aboriginals, to be stronger. It is paramount that our people understand the modern world and remain intimately connected to their past,” he stressed.

Vergine Gulbenkian from the UK likes to understand the world and derive a meaning to it through tales. She may be a storyteller, who has researched on the rich Armenian oral tradition and is interested in communication through performance, but each session is an entirely new experience for her.

“For me, stories are as indispensable as food. What they provide is a certain nourishment that makes everything worthwhile.” However, she believes that asserting contemporary issues in an age-old story makes little sense. “Present-day affairs themselves find a space. You don’t have to thrust them otherwise there is a fear that the story might get betrayed,” she says.

Insisting that “looking back” into her heritage is important and the whole process gives her a sense of responsibility towards the same, Gulbenkian adds, “It is only owing to my heritage that I stand where I do today. Also, when I appreciate my culture, it also gives me an eye to give the same respect to other civilizations and understand the fact that they operate on different layers of sensibilities.”

Singer Mohit Chauhan, who is also the Patron of the festival, believes that age-old stories, legends and folk tales are important to keep one in touch with his/her roots. “And they play a big role in giving an impetus to one’s imagination,” he added.

Chauhan also sang a Himachali song after being asked by actor Manoj Bajpai who was also present on the occasion.

On the first day of the festival, Ron Murray, an aborigine with Scottish blood, used the traditional musical instrument Didgeridoo to lend his stories about native fauna.

Harpist and storyteller Emilia Raiter from Poland gave a rendition of Slavic myths revolving around the origin of the universe while UK-based storyteller Emily Parish told the story of Goddess Kali’s act of slaying of the demon Rakthabija.The idea of the festival was conceived in 2009, when Festival Director, Prarthna Gahilote, along with her sisters were travelling in Ladakh.

“We asked some local kids to name their favourite story. Almost all of them said “Cinderella”. That’s when we knew that something was amiss,” she said.

The chief guest, Kiran Rijiju, Minister of Sports spoke on the richness of the oral tradition and said that modern lifestyle with it gadget culture has diminished the outreach of the oral tradition. “However, one sees a hope in the revival of this age-old art form of the spoken word, which has been reflected in the festival.”

The festival is organised by Nivesh, a cultural forum along with HHACH (Himalayan Hub for Art, Culture and Heritage), Babaji Music and Agha Khan Trust for Culture as festival suport and venue partners.




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