Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Mahabharata Project

The Mahabharata Project began when I googled 'king of the birds'. Up came Garuda. Well of course, that made me curious about the story of Garuda's birth. And that led me to The Mahabharata, and that led me to ask my friend Kala, who grew up in Malaysia with a Hindu background, for help.

One thing led to another and before long, we'd formed an informal study group on Facebook with a couple of friends from Storytelling Australia Victoria. Almost 12 months later, we have over 90 members who randomly post links and toss around ideas. Most of the participants are in Asia, or Asian born and know and love, aspects of Epic.

I try and look at a text that has come down to us from the oral tradition, at least every year. In recent times, along with storytelling friends, I've looked at The Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights and The Mabinogion but The Mahabharata is not a story that can be known in a single lifetime.

The small dedictaed group of us that live in Melbourne decided to explore some elements by retelling or responding in song, poetry, visual art and in my case I had a go at Kamishibai which involved months of drawing.

As so much of my work is in schools and so many children I meet love the protagonists and
themes of the Epic - this study project was way overdue. Within weeks of beginning the project I found I was able to connect with students via the story in a new an exciting way. I have had my pronunciation corrected, met boys named after kings and warriors from the Epic and a Dad who tells his children tales form The Mahabharata with an enthusiasm that is inspiring.

My friends and I shared some of our insights and ideas at the Newport Folk Festival and then most recently at a house concert. This latter of course involved food.

The story of the birth of Garuda is the first story I tell in Tales from the Flyway with a music  composed by my Flyway collaborator Sarah Depasquale.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kamishibai! In South Australia.

On a recent trip to Adelaide, top of my list was to visit the Asia Fest in Rymill Park. This is a 'food and cultural festival' celebrating some of Adelaide's best resaurants alongside stalls and all kinds of entertainment.

My purpose for going was (of course) to track down the storytelling, or to be specific, the Japanese Kamishibai. After a few quick emails from Munetaka and Gail Umehara, and with times and dates locked in the diary, the universe worked in my favour. I was able to catch some performances.

Mr Umehara's set up is well suited to out door events with large cards and sturdy rig.

Bilingual actor and storyteller, Jarrod Hoare, told the story and Mr Umehara played the flute. A bunch of kids in a school holiday program, crowded around creating a scene like in the old photos of Kamishibai performances. The ones I love so much on the internet.
It was very hot and the the stage, thankfully, enjoyed some shade. Other performance areas at the festival were not so fortunate. Although the team were busy, we did manage a group photo.

You can see some footage of Jarrod performing at the Festival HERE.
I'm hopelessly addicted to this kind of visual storytelling and catching up with Munetaka, Gail and Jarrod was a delight. How many more kamishibai storytellers are  scattered around Australia - I wonder ...

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Village Festival: Edinburgh Gardens 2015

The Village Festival is an annual event in Melbourne and this year was celebrating its 10th anniversary. I've been telling stories to children since the beginning - I think I may have missed two, but that's all.

The festival runs for four days, part old-school circus, art village, carnival and part edgy arts festival.

This year I moved away from telling to children as I wanted to share 'Tales from the Flyway'. I was curious to see how our little storytelling piece would work in the mayhem. Sarah and I had a great time and, as always happens, we were quizzed afterwards about the birds and the Flyway.

Thank you to Alex Kharnam for the gorgeous photos taken during the performance.

The Village Festival


Blog Archive