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Telling stories from the heart

Acclaimed South African storyteller, poet, praise singer and actress, Andrea Dondolo speaks to us about the importance of storytelling mothers:

Imagine the scene: It’s that magical and haunting time of day – sunset! Can you hear them? Listen carefully… Stories are like a thumping heart, begging to be allowed to live. Providing a pulse to humanity, our senses come alive with storytelling and, like animals coming to the watering hole, stories quench our thirst for an ecological connection. This scene is enacted up and down, far and wide and in all spheres of humanity.

Words, through storytelling, are magic: binding us together and providing a sense of place and belonging. The storyteller is the magician and the audience is the recipient. Like a calabash, listeners store story treasures deep inside. This wonderful transaction happens all over the world and nowhere more so than here in South Africa.

Africa, my Africa, our Africa, is a land of stories – told through dance, in music, or the great oral tradition of elders sitting around a crackling fire where they recall ancient tales of heart-stopping bravery or patriotism, stories of ridiculous pomposity and stories of deception and pride. We have a great tradition of storytelling and use stories in many ways, from consoling a broken heart to assuring people of their strength.

And who could be more important than mothers to fulfill this storytelling role? Acting as their children’s first teachers, guides and leaders, a mother’s story, old or new, has the power to bring enjoyment, education, emotional and psychological development as well as social cohesion, while her familiar voice and heartbeat constantly returns her children to the rhythm of the world.

My people, the Xhosa people, have an old saying with regards to stories, Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili, meaning that the gift of knowledge is held by those who have journeyed life before us. Traditionally, as Africans, we value our stories and storytellers as sacred, just as we do our children. I urge all parents to take up their role and power as storytellers and connect with their children – pass down your stories, your experience and your wisdom!

Every human in the world uses narrative as a way of making sense of the changing world and our stories, as old as our land, have the power to help us understand our lives, change our lives and share our lives. Tell your stories – connect with your children and the rhythm and the heartbeat of the world.

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