Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

The art of storytelling

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 06/05) - Turn off the television, set down the magazine - it's time to put your ears and imagination to work. Pull up a comfortable chair and consider listening to someone tell you a story for both enjoyment and entertainment.

The importance of the art of storytelling is not lost on Roberta Kennedy, who now calls Yellowknife home.

But neither is the art of listening.

"If it weren't for listeners, then we wouldn't have storytellers, because who would we be telling stories to," Kennedy, a member of the Storytellers of Canada said.

Kennedy has organized a storytelling circle in Yellowknife where one can either listen or tell their own story.

On April 13 and May 15, she said all are welcome to the second floor of the Urbania Building at 6 p.m. to participate.

Kennedy said she does not believe the art of storytelling has been forgotten, but not as much value is placed on it in today's fast-paced society.

Kennedy herself has become well-versed in telling traditional Haida stories to listeners.

"It's important for me to tell these stories so I can maintain a connection to my Haida heritage. It also maintains a connection for my children."

What listeners enjoy listening to often depends upon the time of year, the occasion or other factors, she said. "When I get up on stage, it's which story wants to be told. It's also about reading your audience to figure out why they are there," Kennedy said.

She also chooses her story based upon whether the audience is predominantly children or adults.

And part of the overall effect of engaging the listener is to dress and play the part of the storyteller, she added.

One often holds a rock or stick which indicates it is that person's turn to speak. Some people also change the pitch of their voices. "Some are really superb about keeping it distinct," she said of the various characters which may be part of a story.

Incorporate song into stories

"Some story tellers also incorporate song into their stories," she said, adding that Yellowknife has several storytellers who use that technique.

"You can sing your story, you can dance your story or perform it in theatre," she added.

"And I've seen a storyteller who did not say a word. She had a scene set up with screens and paintings and she just used her facial expressions and body to tell the story."

Clothing, too, is important for Kennedy in her storytelling. A cedar bark hat, traditional slippers, an embroidered robe with a Haida family crest and a symbolic drum are all part of her storytelling outfit.

She said she wants the storytelling tradition to carry on through generations.

"I like to hope there are other people out there that might have the same desire to learn and tell stories."