Storytelling best medium to bring children to literature

New Delhi: Tales from a village in Ghana told to children in Kerala by an Jamaican origin artiste now based in the UK indicates the popularity of oral storytelling in an age where movies and TV are a huge distraction.

Jan Blake, who has been a professional storyteller for the past 25 years mesmerised children and adults alike at the just concluded Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram.

Her story about a chicken who carried a fox, river and fire in its basket to meet a king was met with giggles and laughter. While she imitated a chicken (tukalaka, tukala...) and the crackle of a fire, children sand and shouted along with her.

"Storytelling is one of the best mediums to bring back children to literature and I enjoy every bit of it," Blake told PTI

Blake decided to join a community theatre as an 18 year old after she failed her A levels and later moved on to storytelling specialising in folktales from West Africa, North Africa, the Arab world and the Caribbean.

"My stories are about the frailties, small events that can bring a smile to people`s faces and the condition of human beings in their joys and sorrows. Everybody can take something from my tales." she says.

Without the support of any props, Blake lets her sonorous voice do the talking, modifying it to suit the characters and mesmerise the audiences.

Blake who has grown up in the UK and now has an 18- year old son says she has an Indian connection too. "My great- grandmother was from India. Am not sure from which part of India she is but she landed in Jamaica as a labourer in a plantation there."

She says she loves movies from different parts of the world. "I see them and on the constant look out for a tale. I have seen movies by Satyajit Ray and loved it."

"I do not rehearse for my storytelling sessions but go along with the flow. If there are children in the audience I narrate a story suitable for them and for teenagers something they would like to be told. My aim is to make a difference in everyone`s life but the idea is not to preach," says Blake The artiste was seen seeking stories from Kerala during her performance there.

"If anybody can tell me one story from India I promise to include that in my storytelling sessions," Blake told the audience.

While the natural progression for her to write down her stories Blake says she is lazy on that part.

"I never got around to writing. I have one book for preschoolers ?Give Me My Yam about a boy called Jordan, who loves yam. I think I will soon write more books."

The artiste is presently also doing a screenplay for an animation film.



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