Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oral Storytelling & African Heritage

Long before people could read and write, humans shared stories through oral storytelling. Listening to a storyteller is a more personal experience than the solo act of reading a book; hearing the storyteller’s voice and observing their facial expressions and body language adds dimension to a story beyond what even the most skilled writer can put on a page.

The tradition of oral storytelling continues to be strong in many cultures, including among African Canadians. Over the next few weeks, in celebration of African Heritage Month, there are a number of oral storytelling events taking place at Halifax Public Libraries and beyond. So, consider putting that book or eReader down, just for an evening, to take in (or take part in) a live storytelling or spoken-word event to experience a form of storytelling that predates books, audiobooks, films and of course, eBooks.

On February 9, there are two events from which to choose. The first event, Storied Lives, features filmmaker Juanita Peters (M) and historian, writer and researcher Donna Byard-Sealey (M). Juanita and Donna will share largely unknown stories of African Canadian lives using visual, oral and textual presentations to tell their stories. This program will take place at the Dalhousie Student Union Building at 6 p.m.

On the same night, beginning at 7 p.m., the Halifax North Memorial Library will host an Open Mic Poetry Night celebrating the literature of the African Diaspora. Everyone is invited to read aloud a favourite poem, original work or to choose a poem from a selection of library books that will be on hand. One of my favourite poets of the African Diaspora is Langston Hughes (M).

Past Poet Laureate Shauntay Grant (M) will be hosting a program called Wordrhythm at the Spring Garden Road Memorial Library on February 14 at 7 p.m. Wordrhythm is an improvisatory series that encourages the collaboration between spoken word artists and musicians and focuses on close listening. Shauntay is the author of Down Home and The City Speaks in Drums, two poetic books for children perfect for reading aloud.

For fans of writer and painter David Woods (M), February brings two opportunities to see him live. The first, on February 11 at 2 p.m. at the Tantallon Public Library, is when David will present Once, his collection of stories about the life and death of Africville. David’s performance of Once will be accompanied by an exhibition of paintings and woodcarvings by Halifax artist and Africville descendant Angel Gannon.

Your second opportunity to see David Woods comes on February 16 at a spoken word event called Speak! This event will take place at the Company House (ages 19+) and will start at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.

And since we’re talking about events in celebration of African Heritage Month, this is a good opportunity to direct you to a complete list of what’s being offered at the library in February. The library has a website dedicated to African Heritage, which features information about programming, a history of African Heritage Month at Halifax Public Libraries and other resource information. Another great source for programming information in February is the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

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