Travelling international storytelling festival debuts in Mumbai

Updated: Nov 17, 2016, 15:58 IST | Krutika Behrawala |

A travelling festival with Indian and UK storytellers comes to SoBo to share Greek myths and the lost art of dastangoi with your kids

Giles Abbott
Giles Abbott

This Thursday, if you drop in at CSMVS, you will find Giles Abbott narrating struggles of Pygmalion, an artist who falls in love with the statue of an ideal woman that he has created. Titled Caught On The Horns, it is a 45-minute retelling of a Greek myth by Roman poet Ovid. Abbott — one of the leading storytellers in UK, lost his vision in 1999, which triggered him to take up storytelling — will captivate seven-year-olds and senior citizens alike, by modulating his voice for different characters, adding theatrics with facial expressions and evoking laughter with new-age references; there’s one to feta cheese. He is here to perform as part of the sixth edition of Kathakar — International Storytellers Festival that travels and makes its debut in Mumbai after performances in Delhi and Bengaluru.

Katy Cawkwell
Katy Cawkwell

Travel with stories
Kathakar is part of Ghumakkad Narain — The Travelling Literature Festival, an initiative started in 2010 by Delhi-based non-profit Nivesh and Himalayan Heritage Art and Cultural Hub (HHACH) under the aegis of UNESCO. “It was started to support the government’s Right To Education Act. The idea was to strengthen reading habits and promote libraries among children and the youth. During one of the discussions, the team felt that oral storytelling should also be encouraged. Hence, we started the fest,” says the festival advisor Shaguna Gahilote, a Delhi-based culture and education specialist, who has previously headed literature and arts programmes at the British Council besides working with INTACH and UNESCO.

Namash BhardwajNamash Bhardwaj

What’s in store?
The day-long event is divided into three sessions — morning, afternoon and evening. While the morning and afternoon sessions are open for pre-registered school (Class 5 to 8) and NGO students and teachers, the evening session is open to all. The performers include UK-based Katy Cawkwell, who will be in India for the first time, armed with two decades of storytelling experience. In the evening, she will unravel a compelling narrative filled with fraud ravens, savage eagles and shape-shifting swans in the story, Extraordinary Birds.

“The team has extensive sessions with performers to figure how the stories have an India connect — either an element that the audience is interested in or aware of,” informs Gahilote. Case in point: For school kids, Abbott will narrate the tales of evil trickster Loki and superhero Thor, who originated from Norse mythology, and have now become popular characters in the Marvel universe.

D for dastangoi
The line-up also features theatre and film actorNamash Bhardwaj, who will don a white kurta-pyjama and a skull cap to present folk tales in Dastangoi, a 16th century Urdu oral art form. “The idea is to introduce kids to revived Indian oral traditions, along with devised storytelling forms popular internationally,” she shares, adding, “We curate simple stories with action and more repetition to catch kids’ interest.” For the morning audience, Bhardwaj will narrate the magical fantasy epic of Hoshruba in English and Hindi, and include Urdu for the open session in the evening.

Audience matters
Stories also include interactions with audience. For instance, when Pygmalion is faced with a dilemma in Caught On The Horns, Abbott asks the audience to help the character make a choice. “We discuss and debate until a consensus emerges and then, I finish the story as directed by the audience,” he says.

On: November 17, 6 pm to 8.30 pm
Open to: Adults and children above 7 years
At: Visitors Centre, CSMVS, Fort
Log on to: (for full schedule)
Note: Entry will be on first-come-first-served basis

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