Around the fireside, one would presume, is the place stories began. Or have there always been stories? The ancient stories, the ones that last are the stories which have been made simple, like parables. They seem simple, but may have a profound message which runs deeper and teaches us something. These stories have universal elements, so that they remain relevant through the ages and across many borders and cultures and nationalities. They must carry a kernal of truth or they would not resonate. If they do not resonate, then they whither and die like plants when they have had their season.
A tale is a spell. The Grimms fairy tales use strong archetypal characters, which teach us about ourselves and are warnings to children and parents about the lives they might live if they make certain choices. The stories carry subtle lessons, which resonate subconsciously.There is more magic than one realizes in a story, as the musical (Disney made a movie) Into The Woods– which weaves together 4 or 5 of Grimms original fairy tales proves. I love the profound final number, which goes: “Careful the things you say, children will listen…. Careful the wish you make, wishes are children, careful the tale you tell… Careful the spell you caste…it may last.” (See the full song here: )
So where did stories begin? According to Ntombifuthi Mkhasibe and Vincent Meyburgh of Jungle theatre, stories began with the original man and the original woman and their need to find enough stories to tell their 10 children. The archetypal woman in the story does all the work, while the husband carves beautiful carvings and hunts. She is the one who bravely sets off into the unknown wilderness to find more stories and bring them back to their children. The show, performed by Ntombifuthi and Vincent leads viewers through a wild African landscape meeting various animals along the way. Each creature has its own special wisdom to impart. She then travels onwards ignoring any physical barriers into the spirit realm where she discovers messages of the ancestors and brings them back from under the ocean. The show uses mime and simple props, costumes and masks in combination with colourful storytelling to keep the children fully entertained all the way through. Creative use of props and masks keeps the show simple and innovative.
The rich and ancient heritage of oral story telling is an art which needs to be kept alive in times of digital advancement. Even though technology keeps them hooked up so much of the time these days, children can still be entertained and reminded of the simple truths of the days when the earth was still new and the wild animals were the only ones we met along the road. In those days man/womankind was still modest enough to listen to the messages from nature and the lessons the animals could teach us. These lessons were retold to the children, and the children listened, and they told those stories to their children and so on.
The purpose of the show is to inspire children to value stories and to be inspired to read them too. The show is aimed at children of all cultures in South Africa and hopes to instill a pride in our national heritage of natural story telling. Jungle Theatre – (based in Muizenberg, Cape Town) makes its shows as accessible as possible by taking them to schools in townships as well as festivals around the country where they often perform in public spaces.
The show, directed by Seiso Qhola will be performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (Eastern Cape) next week. See the program link bellow to find out the times. The same company is also performing “Butterfly Dreams” on the lawn behind the Rhodes Arch at the end of Highstreet. This show is free and open to the public.