Listen, Kathakar has stories to tell
New Delhi: A Swedish woman told the tale of a goddess of destruction. Her anklet bells jingled, the bamboo stick in her hands rose and fell with the pace of the story, swishing through the air, and her tongue hung out to show the rage coursing through the veins of the goddess, along with the blood of the demon she had slayed. As Emily Hennessey created music while telling her story, the audience watched in mesmerised silence, and an eightyear-old child in the front row hung out his own tongue in seeming solidarity with Hennessey, channeling the same story.
What Norse mythology was this? None. This was the story of goddess Kali being told at the ninth edition of the Kathakar International storytellers’ festival, the only event in India that celebrates the art of oral storytelling. The festival began on Friday and will go on till Sunday at Sunder Nursery, Heritage Park, Nizamuddin. Sessions focusing on native tales from India, Poland, Australia, Sweden, Romania, Mongolia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom would highlight the three days, the organisers said.
Hundreds turned up on the first day of the festival to hear several forms of mythical tales, along with special guests like actor Manoj Bajpayee, Union minister Kiren Rijiju and singer Mohit Chauhan, who is also one of the patrons for the festival. The event started off with homage to Buddha by the monks of Sherabling, who have received a Grammy for their sacred Tibetan chants. The deep guttural voices of the five monks synced up to create a beautiful harmony that echoed around the open-air auditorium. The audience, made up of every age and class, spilled over the cushioned steps into the grassy spaces between the seats to enjoy this unique experience. The crowd also had the attendance of theatre personality and actor Ratna Pathak Shah.
Bajpayee pointed out that oral storytelling was probably the first-ever form of entertainment that originated with hunters and gatherers. “The art of oral storytelling is slowly dying in the age of screens, and this festival is an effort to bring the art to the forefront,” said Prarthna Gehlot, co-organiser of the three-day event along with her sisters Shaguna and Rachna.
The crowd swelled to hear Australian folktales from Aborigine elders Larry Walsh and Ron Murray. Armed with seve
Slavic myths by Emilia Raiter ral didgeridoo — musical instruments made from hollowed out tree trunks — Murray played out sounds made by animals in “the bush” while Walsh, better known as Uncle Larry, told tales of indigenous animals. The audience learnt about the songs and dances practised by the Aborigines at corroborees, learning of how they believe several animals came to be. Children laughed, learning of the cheeky eightyear-old Kubra, who stole his village’s water and climbed up a tree, and turned into a koala because he refused to come Special guests actor Manoj Bajpayee and Union minister Kiren Rijiju with singer Mohit Chauhan, a patron for the festival
Australian folktales by Aborigine elders Larry Walsh and Ron Murray Story of Kali by Emily Hennessey
down. Murray’s music gave the backdrop to the sad tale of Perawantine, the first snake who wanted to sing, but couldn’t.
The engaging childlike tales of the elders provided a sharp contrast to the hauntingly beautiful Slavic myths retold by Emilia Raiter. The polish storyteller’s symphonic playing of a harp provided the mood to her tales of gods sparring with each other, coming forth from light and dark, until it led to the creation of the world. Raiter’s harp perfectly accompanied her performance, peaking with the creation of WHAT Kathakar International storytellers’ festival
With Himalayan Hub for Art, Culture and Heritage (HHACH), Babaji Music and Aga Khan Trust for Culture as partners,
Kathakar was launched in 2010 under the aegis
WHERE Sunder Nursery, Heritage Park,
WHEN Oct 11-13
TIME 6pm to 10pm
TICKETS Available on Bookmyshow.com
or on site
new gods and beginning of new battles, and slowing down when a creation was destroyed or a battle ended.
Several such performances have been lined up for the rest of the Kathakar fest. Tholpavakoothu artistes will perform shadow theatre based on Ramayana while Hennessey will perform Tales from the Mahabharat on Sunday. Kissey, Kahani aur Cinema session with director Imtiaz Ali, Polish Tales by Jerzy Szufa and Qissebazi by theatre personality Danish Husain are also on the agenda.