Jamaican Art of Storytelling Remains Alive

Modern Jamaica Today 13
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The event brought together local storytellers, educators and researchers to examine the history, status and importance of storytelling in Jamaica.

By CHARNELE HENRY for Jamaica Information Service

Director of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), Bernard Jankee, says storytelling remains a part of the Jamaican culture and has broadened beyond the traditional sense.

“I think storytelling is still very much a part of our existence. It is not in the public eye as much but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Anansi stories are still out there, for example, and that is one of the most popular forms of storytelling. There are also the Big Boy stories that are still being told,” he said in a recent JIS News interview.

While acknowledging that over time, the ways in which stories are told have changed, Mr. Jankee said that this does not mean that the tradition is dying, but that people should broaden their concept of storytelling.

“I don’t worry that the traditions are going to be gone and I think that we need to broaden how we think of storytelling, to encompass the everyday conversations that people have,” he said.

He noted, for example, that just sitting down and having discussions about life and experience is a form of storytelling.

“Even in our day-to-day interactions, whether we realise it or not, we are telling stories and they do not have to be made up. They can reflect your own personal experience and that, to my mind, is an aspect to storytelling that is also important,” he argued.

Mr. Jankee said that children are also telling stories even with technology at their disposal.

“Children still talk to each other and the tablet might be a medium through which they communicate, but they are still, in many cases, communicating ideas, whether they see it as such or not. They are telling about themselves and sharing ideas amongst themselves, so it continues, aided by current technology,” he noted.

The ACIJ/JMB Director shared that storytelling still serves the purpose of entertainment and education – “teaching morals, how to conduct yourself, how to relate to others and about good versus evil”, which highlights the importance of its retention.
“It is critical because it helps to maintain a sense of who we are, where we are coming from and also points a path to our future. So, storytelling is an undeniable and inevitable part of our cultural makeup,” he noted.

The ACIJ/JMB, through one of its older features, ‘Story-O’, would take storytellers and other performers across the island to share knowledge about the country’s cultural practices.

Last month, the entity hosted an Afro-Jamaican storytelling lecture series, under the theme ‘Jack Mandora: The Roots of Afro-Jamaican storytelling as an Intangible Cultural Heritage’.

The event brought together local storytellers, educators and researchers to examine the history, status and importance of storytelling in Jamaica.

The ACIJ/JMB is a division of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and has a mandate to research, document and disseminate information on African heritage and its impact on Jamaican culture.

For further information, persons can call 876-922-4793/7415 or visit the entity’s YouTube channel.

By CHARNELE HENRY for Jamaica Information Service

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