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.

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