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The tales that bind

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jun 02/06) - What makes for a good story? Is it the plot? The characters? The technique? Or is it the audience?

This weekend, we may find some answers, as the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre presents its second annual Festival of Stories.

Yellowknife storyteller and teacher Roberta Kennedy will be one of many to bring her mix of song and story to the second annual Northern Arts and Cultural Centre Festival of Stories this weekend. The Festival will include a number of performance and workshops. - NNSL file photo


  • Emerita Emerencia (Toronto)
  • Jim Green (Fort Smith)
  • Moira Cameron (Yellowknife)
  • Gerry Antoine (Fort Simpson)
  • William Greenland (Inuvik)
  • Roberta Kennedy (Yellowknife)
  • Scott McQueen ("Nowhere," NWT)
  • Trudy Samuel (Yellowknife)

  • The festival runs June 2-4, featuring a number of storytelling workshops and performances.

    NACC executive directorBen Nind said the purpose of the festival is "To reinforce the knowledge of our own stories, and bring the tellers together in a formal setting.

    "Stories are the fabric that holds us together."

    Eight performers will participate throughout the weekend, seven of whom come from around the NWT.

    They include repeat performers Roberta Kennedy, William Greenland, Jim Green, Moira Cameron, Gerry Antoine, newcomers Trudy Samuel and Scott McQueen, and Toronto's Emerita Emerencia, making her first appearance in Yellowknife.

    Nind said Emerencia, an experienced, internationally-travelled storyteller, is the weekend's featured performer. He said her performances are a celebration of African culture, fusing theatre, storytelling, music, dance and audience participation. These elements have taken her across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean and Africa, entertaining and teaching. In her second performance at the festival, Roberta Kennedy plans to switch things up a little. Known for traditional Haida tales, songs and drumming, she said she wants to delve into more personal stories this time around.

    "Maybe it could still be classified as a Haida story, since it's being told by a real Haida," she said thoughtfully.

    In her view, the best kind of storytelling happens when "you put your whole being into it," losing yourself in the story.

    But it doesn't hurt if you can make the audience chuckle a bit, too.

    "I want them to laugh louder than me, because I snort at the end," she said.

    For newcomer Trudy Samuel, the best stories are those that make us question the world, and look at the "bigger picture."

    She said her stories will focus on her grandmothers, and the inspiration that have provided her.

    "(Stories) tap into something that is old and primeval in all of us."

    "We are still in the baby steps of doing this," Nind said of the event's second year. The festival, he said, was inspired by the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The festival has become an international attraction and a keystone of Yukon culture, something that said he hopes to emulate.

    "Stories are resources as important as oil and gas, gold and diamonds," he said.