Storytelling A cathartic experience

‘Tell your story and be free, tell your story and live long,’ suggests a well-known storyteller Bongiswa K Ramushwana from South Africa

Storytelling as a tool to heal and spread positivity in the age of technology is unique in itself and is being used by storytellers from around the world. Bongiswa Kotta Ramushwana is one such name from South Africa who has been using storytelling to bring cathartic experiences to her listener. Ramushwana started her career in 2004 and does not take storytelling just as an art form; for her it is a heart to heart connection.

While working as a receptionist, storytelling happened to Ramushwana like an imagined tale. She was introduced to the renowned storyteller Gcina Mhlope 16-years back, who inspired her to pursure this profession. Later, she researched about Mhlope and started her storytelling career with Mhlope's company under the name 'Zanendaba storytellers'.

Recalling her initial days, she said, "I called the company every day for three months, even when they told me that they were not looking for storytellers at the time. I kept on trying and never gave up. Three months later, I received a call from them asking me to tell a story. From then onwards I never looked back and the rest is history."

Ramushwana spoke to Millennium Post about how she creates the world of stories where one can overcome their grief and distress.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Do you think that storytelling can help people heal or overcome their griefs?

Now you are coming home....That is exactly what storytelling has been doing for me personally. Speaking about your grief or telling your personal stories is healing. A lot of people are suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, stress leading to suicide. That's because they are keeping secrets that are giving them sleepless nights. They are scared to speak out because they are worried about what people will say. Tell your story and be free, tell your story and live long!

How do you delve deep into your listener's imagination while telling stories?

I never tell a story which I do not love. It's important for me as a teller to love and appreciate what I am going to present to my listeners. Also, it's essential for me to enjoy while interacting with them, so that the listeners can feel my energy. I believe my greatest secret is that my stories are mostly interactive and that helps me to travel with them to the world of imagination.

Secondly, I guess my songs and dance keep them glued to me.

How storytelling is different from other art forms like drama, music, dance?

For me, it is a combination of all of these art forms. I sing, dance and act while narrating my stories which is essential to bring life to the narrative.

What are you looking forward at 'Udaipur Tales'?

Wow, where do I start, meeting new storytellers, hearing more stories, interacting with the audience.

Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms, carrying tradition and culture. With the advancement of technology, people have lost human interaction. How do see storytelling fitting in the modern world?

I think it fits very well as the art form is advancing or should I say we are only now recognising the power of storytelling. We have many categories in storytelling, like science, architecture, business, healing, mathematics and the world is mesmerised at the wonders it can do it various fields.

Secondly, stories travel and they are modernised or even digitilised. As we are having apps, DVDs, and CDs for those who do not like reading, they can still watch and listen. We have a lot of work to do as storytellers as we are one of the people in the world who can make a difference. There is a huge gap to fill and we have been blessed with the opportunity to do so and with love and passion, we can make it.

Bongiswa Kotta Ramushwana will be performing at the 3-day international storytelling festival 'Udaipur Tales'. Bringing together a variety of traditions - from folk ensemble to dastangoi – the festival will be held in Udaipur from February 21 to 23.

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