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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Homes nesting in each other…

About a week ago I had just finished facilitating a workshop at the Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery.  It was about 7.00pm in the evening. and it had been raining.  As I opened the door to get into the car I saw a little nest – a bird’s nest stuck on my windscreen by the rainwater.  It was made from grass and leaves and feathers, and looked do soft and comforting.  A little home, I thought as I picked it up and put on the backseat.  It now sits on my bookshelf with a little paper heart resting in it.   What strikes me, though, is my sense of the nest being significant.

On one level, I feel it is significant because I have been nesting – creating a nest for my family.  This is partly what happens when you have a baby, and something that needs to happen every once in a while, because everyone gets so busy with their own lives, that the soft threads that hold you together as a family start to fray, and you need to pay attention again, and weave them strong again.  So I have been making home a soft place for all of us to land in these challenging times… and I think it is more than that.

The Art Gallery is a place that draws me to it – and I follow the pull of place.  I have a firm belief in the power of place – places either talk to me, or they don’t.  Some places draw me all the time, and some only for a season.  Rust-en-Vrede draws me in a special way.  It is a lovely old building, with wooden floors, high ceilings set in a lovely garden with lots and lots of old trees. It is a warm place to come to.

A few months ago, I spent the day there, working on my laptop.  As I walked from my car towards the little coffee shop, I felt the soft caress of the breeze on my cheeks, and there was something about the light of day, the breeze and the sound of the birds that felt like I was back home, in Uganda, except that it was as if my home in Uganda was visiting me and the Gallery.  It was as if my home of origin was visiting my new home.  I have never experienced anything like that.  And that was not the end.  Later, as I sat under the trees, at a table, eating my lunch, I felt the presence of my late father, and my late sister Fay – whose presence I had not felt in a while.  And I felt as if my father wanted me to tell the story of my mother – of how she held us all together through all the challenges, and to let her know how much we knew it was her, holding us all together, and how much we love and appreciate her.  And so I am going to do that.

The Crane Wife – Asking Too Much From Stories

The Crane Wife – Asking Too Much From Stories.

This is a wonderful story, and a wonderful blog on storytelling!

Going full-circle

7 years ago, I was invited by Dorian Haarhoff to facilitate a workshop on using storytelling for development for a People to People Ambassadors group from the United States.  It was at the Centre for the Book next to the Company Gardens in Cape Town.  This led to a collaboration (between Dorian, Elma Pollard, Toto Gxabela and I) a few years later on a project for UNICEF that we called Storywell.  In this project we developed a programme for Caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces on the use of stories and creative process to provide psycho-social support to each other and to the children in their care.  The Storywell concept grew out of a belief that

  • everyone has a well of stories inside them that they can draw from
  • we can all story well – i.e.  tell stories in a way that engages the listeners
  • telling and listening to stories helps us to heal and be well

We continue to do Storywell work, individually, in various ways, although we do not always call it Storywell.   I continue to work with the concepts and understanding in coaching, in my leadership development work, and working with change in organisations.  It also underpins the Bodaciously me…! networking events that I organise for women in some ways.

Well, today Dorian and I worked together again, after 3 years (during which I focused more on birthing and looking after the unexpected gift of a child, just as I was getting ready for an empty nest – but that is a story for another time).  Again it was at the Centre for the Book, where we met 7 years ago, and this time we were working with delegates to the Global Alliance Summit for Ministries and Departments of Peace.  Dorian was doing a two-day pre-conference training on the use of storytelling for peace building, and I was the guest storyteller.  My role was to give them experience of the power of storytelling and story-listening.  I shared personal stories, in poems, and a few folktales – and this led to an unexpected conversation on ways in which one uses stories.

One of the most interesting insights for me was the conversation we had about endings – not all stories end with ‘they lived happily ever after’ but all powerful and strong stories end with a sense of hope.  This is an important understanding that one needs to carry when using stories for development work.  Hope might mean that the protagonist is remorseful, or maybe the rains have come again, or as in the Nama story about !Urisib, where even though the original verdant land is not restored, once a year the flowers come back to Namaqualand and the people can enjoy them.  Storywell for Peacebuilding – potentially powerful processes!!!

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