About the tradition and knowledge
Myths, fairy-tales, legends, fables and jokes are still being told and retold today. In countries where people live closer to their traditions, stories may retain a respected place in education and support a cultural continuity.
Norway has its own treasured stories both in Norwegian and in Sami. These are documented and have a strong presence in the school curriculum. Meanwhile during the last 20 years the rapid pace of immigration has led to much more cultural diversity, and we find ourselves with a multiplicity of new storytelling traditions. However, these traditions are often invisible. Immigrants are so busy learning Norwegian, finding a job and integrating themselves and their children that it’s hard to find time to remember the stories one grew up with. In the hustle and bustle of our technological age, many people seem to forget the existence of this major building block of their own education.
Fortellerhuset, (The Storytelling House) the longest running professional storytelling group in Norway, have focussed on this area of storytelling since its formation in 2003. The members from 3 continents have worked with training of minorities to increase interest and competence in their own traditions. Participants often experience that renewing their own stories and increasing their storytelling talents builds confidence and they find themselves with a strengthened identity both at work and at home.
In 2006, Fortellerhuset was invited to a major international Storytelling festival in Iran promoted on national television. In the preparation for the festival Georgiana Keable (founder of Fortellerhuset) enquired several times whether it would be appropriate to tell stories in English and was told politely that this would be no problem. On arrival the storytellers were faced with an audience with almost no English skills. However the interpreters who had been provided were very gifted young people. Georgiana was inspired to work with her interpreter and develop a way of telling where the two languages are being performed together, not in the ordinary form where the interpreter repeats everything but in a more dramatic, physical and playful way. In the known context of a story suddenly it became possible for the listeners to understand a language they had never heard before. This was very well received in Iran and the work continued in Norway.
In 2000 UNESCO had decreed 21st February a day to celebrate our mother tongue. In 2007 ‘Mother-tongue day’ was celebrated for the first time in Norway. Susan Lyden from Stovner on the East side of Oslo invited Fortellerhuset and the event was to be held in the local library. That year it was minus 15 degrees outside and the lady from the local council with the job of publicising the event had come down with flu. All in all things didn’t look promising. Nonetheless over 1000 locals turned up and packed the library. Fortellerhuset had storytelling in Urdu, Kurdish, Tamil, Vietnamese, Farsi, French, Somali and English. The celebration of this day has been an annual tradition since then in many parts of Oslo and elsewhere in Norway. (See video below).
NAFO, the National Center for Intercultural learning was excited about this new form and has supported and developed a large number of bilingual videos: see the links below. NAFO also made a gorgeous series of two-language stories where children’s drawings illustrated the stories. The Somali stories with their strong network consistently gets the most hits – one has over 48,000 viewers which is a lot for Norway. (See below)
Dual-language stories are a new form within the traditions of oral narrative art. Sunil Loona, senior advisor at NAFO, says he believes this form is so popular because, at this time when people are moving around the globe so fast, there is a greater need to deepen the connection with other cultures and other languages. He says this form is a direct communication that is so very inclusive. While you may only know one of the two languages being used, suddenly you find yourself understanding an unknown language, laughing and enjoying the sounds and stories of another place along with the rest of the audience.
Fortellerhuset is still producing new two-language productions – see below - Buzak Chini – Afghanistan’s bravest goat. Two-language stories are more demanding to the performer than telling a traditional story. You need to listen and cooperate intensely with the other storyteller. Fortellerhuset has developed a lot of techniques to make the experience so much more than a translation. And when the job is done, there is so much entertainment. This new form seems to be arising in many parts of the world.