Grace Wangari has told stories as far as Sweden, Iran and Tanzania. You may wonder how on earth someone would pursue storytelling as a profession. Curiosity led us to one of the events she had helped organize with ZAMALEO at a restaurant in Westlands, and later on the Sigana International Storytelling Festival at the Kenya Cultural Centre.
These events saw an amalgamation of artists from as far as Korea, Uganda, USA, and Sweden among other countries, perform renditions of stories from various cultures, bringing them to life with magnificent dramatization that took us back in time, yet at the same time provoked our sense of appreciation of the present.
Wangari the Storyteller has perfected this art, capturing the imagination of both the young and old with the entertaining, interactive, and educative performances. She has become a favourite of many a school if the invitations she’s getting is anything to go by.
And out of the school setting, she has linked up with the Nairobi Museum for #TimeOut with Wangari where families converge, learn, paint, dance, and enjoy storytelling. You can tell from the enthusiasm of the kids seeing their fathers take a jig, or create a story, that this is much more than just any family time out. The sessions, which happen once every two months bring out the best in parent – child interaction. Parents watch as children do amazing arts and crafts work as they learn from each other and sometimes work in groups even though they have just met for the first time.
That has however not barred her from holding storytelling sessions for adults, not just in informal settings which act as pass-time activities for most people, but also to corporations and institutions such as the one she recently held with Strathmore University and the Sigana Moto Moto renditions.
The significance of storytelling in daily life cannot be over emphasized. Apart from the entertainment, stories teach and provoke our minds to deal with frequent challenges. For instance, one of the stories follows her book The Forever Tree, which is a favourite for children. It teaches the importance of listening skills and following instructions.
You watch in amazement as she travels with her young audience through an animal fantasy story where there is a prize at the end of a journey, but winning is only possible if you are keen, have superb listening skills, and can follow simple instructions. Like several characters of the story, the young enthusiastic audiences consciously follow the story with the aim of getting to the finish and ultimately having the prize.
Many parents and teachers have observed that following the storytelling interactions they have had so far, learners have not only improved their ability to think, but also follow instructions, be innovative, read storybooks for pleasure, and express themselves confidently. It wasn’t surprising for Wangari when she received a call to facilitate a teenage session during a camp at one of the leading churches, and the feedback has seen her acquire a somewhat permanent slot in subsequent programmes.
The family sessions at the museum have an added advantage: the first #Time Out with Wangari saw attendees visit the Snake Park; the second involved learning about the insect kingdom; the third had attendees learning about the bird kingdom.
For more information and Storytelling sessions, reach out to Wangari on her website HERE.