Kenya’s best storytellers converge

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September 27, 2010 – 80 of Kenya’s best storytellers hold centre stage at the Storymoja Hay Festival in Nairobi next month.

Their mission; is to tell the greatest Kenyan story ever told. The event sponsored by the USAID will be based around the theme of diversity. Who can tell it best? Who can leave us with a memorable, emotive and fascinating tale that we shall be retelling as our own for years to come?

“Originality, structure, length and entertainment value are some of the things that the judges will be looking out for,” says Millie Dok, Events Co-ordinator, Storymoja who have organised the Storytelling Competition for four years.

“This is the fourth time we run this amazing competition, which has launched the careers of students into journalism, television, professional storytelling and writing careers. Through this competition, participants got exposure and connections.”

Some of the big names who launched their careers by telling a story on the Storymoja stage are Eric Omondi, Xavier Nato, Andrew Ochieng, Ogutu Muraya (toured the UK with Cut off by tongue), Joanne Karimi (visited the Hay Festival- UK), Edwin Nyakundi (is now getting his second book published, and his theatre play about a Wannabe Rapper was produced in Jane/Feb 2010) and Jamlick Kogi (professional storyteller).

“We began the search for the best storytellers amongst colleges, technical institutions and universities in Kenya in mid July this year. Over 80 institutions participated each fielding at least ten contestants for the finals after holding internal sessions over a period of 14 days each,” explains Millie.

The storytelling competition was borne out of restoring the glory of oral literature, a niche in literary history that Africa has always held.

“Africans have preserved their culture, their identity and stories through oral literature. This was so important for them that there were those in the society who were entrusted solely to carry the information for the current generation to the next. In fact, they raised you from birth to be able to take over from your teacher so that we would know where we came from,” says Muthoni Garland, Managing Director of Storymoja.

Courtesy of the US Embassy, sponsors of this year’s storytelling edition, the overall winner will receive an all expenses paid trip to the USA. Second place win Sh10,000 and the four runners up each receive Sh5,000.

“One of America’s biggest strengths is its diversity. That is why people from all over the world want to go and live there! So the theme for the Storymoja Storytelling Competition this year is ‘Diversity,” explains Muthoni.

“The main point or issue or conflict in every story must be based on an element of diversity. But be Creative! Diversity comes in many forms.”

In the first cycle of the Storytelling competition, contestants have to work with their lecturers to craft an original story which would have to conform to the criteria set out by the judges. The contestants make their final journey after a pre-competition workshop with Cat Weatherhill and Katrice Horsley, currently the worlds’ leading storytelling instructors.

“The workshop is important for both the contestants and for imparting the art of storytelling to those who are interested,” add Millie.

The current module for the 2010 Master Storyteller Competition will be a five point’s format in which five judges drawn from the media, sponsors and Storymoja will award.

QUALITY (10 points) – creative, complete, memorable, deep/layered, has element of surprise, has resolution, has stamp of teller/he or she owns it!

PERFORMANCE SKILLS (5 points) – command of audience, entertainment value, use of suspense/tension, audience involvement

ORIGINALITY (5 points) of story or interpretation, including use of stylistic devises like song, chants, irony, humour, etc.

CLARITY (5 points) – audibility, flow, smooth transitions, ease of understanding, good pacing…

THEME (5 points) – relevance, how well story interprets, personifies or exemplifies the theme of Diversity or differences.

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