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My “tribe” across the border…

July 11, 2016

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 Last weekend I found myself on a bus in Vancouver with fifteen other storyteller/musicians singing at the top of my voice – in English and in French! Attending the annual national conference of the Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada (CS – CC) was just what I needed. Not only did I meet with and learn from a whole bunch of people like me, but I was able to resuscitate use of a language deeply loved but long unused.

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This bi-lingual conference brought together storytellers from British Columbia to Nova Scotia: indigenous tellers and drummers, tellers with an English or Scotch or Eastern European heritage, elders, and eager young newcomers – and me. Tellers shared beautifully crafted personal stories as well as folktales from every continent. A keynote speaker, Jean Pierre Mokasso from the Congo, combined a wrenching personal history with a lively folktale: all told in the wonderfully energetic call and response style of traditional African tellers. As I listened, I was back in Cameroon in Central West Africa, watching and listening as Emmanuel Matateyou galvanized the participants in my seminar – from five different African countries, France, England, and the US – with his story. I chatted with two tellers: both over 80 years old and still going strong. I watched as the CS-CC board carefully steered it’s way through an annual meeting, dealing with difficult issues such as how to encourage and support diversity with patience and grace. I laughed at the lively and whimsical group of “SOP’s” (Silly Old People) with their animal noses. They are, in actuality, retired board members, who continue to guide and advise CS – CC in this new capacity. I marveled at the fifteen year Story Save project which each year selects a respected elder teller and records their stories for posterity.

It was a wonderful weekend and I thank all my Canadian colleagues for their gracious (and lively!) hospitality….

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