Storytelling as a window into Imagination
I have worked for many years in design and painting, but over the last 3 years I have become increasingly interested in storytelling. It appealed because it was both an opportunity for imaginative illustration where the ordinary everyday could happily give way to a little fantasy and be lifted away from normal reality.
I also found that in the telling of a story, whether to adults or children, there is a unique contact, one that is so precious in this day and age of screen and stress. One is the privileged initiator of real, and lasting communication. The spontaneity of storytelling is such that it can be finely tuned to the needs of a particular group of children, I would very much welcome this sort of challenge, seeing it above all as a sharing and a giving. I love to see that faraway look of flowering imagination in a child’s eyes, and then to watch it develop and grow, whether verbally or artistically.
I recently told the story of Babayaga, a traditional Russian Tale,to a group of 7 year olds at a school in Somerset, and I wanted to set the scene and tell them a little about Russia, so I started by describing the endless landscape of forest and plain, and trying to communicate the wild and endless quality of that vast country. They listened wide-eyed and I realised that it was hard for their young minds to comprehend such space but they certainly had the wide open hearts to receive everything that the story had to teach.. I found myself talking about Russian dolls, the brightly painted wooden ones which pull apart into two hollow halves to reveal another smaller doll inside, and this one also pulls apart to expose a third doll inside that. And so it goes on, revealing maybe seven or eight ever smaller dolls, ending with a tiny little nugget of solid wood. Traditional stories are just like this. When you make the effort to penetrate beyond the outer appearance then more and more is shown you. And if you persevere you too will end up with a many coated nugget of wisdom. In the context of this project it would be exciting to stimulate the children to explore language and extend their vocabulary.
A story is a gift; in fact there is an old saying that a story is like an apple tree which bears three apples: the first is for listening, the second for remembering, and the third for pondering upon the meaning and taking it into your heart. Perhaps in this project the ‘pondering’ could be extended and expressed as language, with attendant development of skills.