Tales around the fire!

One of my best childhood memories is of my siblings and I sitting outside ngaseziko (next to a fireplace that is also used for cooking) in the evening, roasting fresh corn, listening to uTata esibalisela intsomi intsomi namabali (my father telling us tales and his childhood stories). On colder nights it would be in the lounge or the kitchen, around the coal stove, us little one’s enchanted by the animated and hysterical stories told by our parents. My mother would comically tell us hilarious stories of when they had just gotten married, when she was a new bride. Of course these stories were told over and over but were always enthralling as somehow every time there would be a small detail that would be added that was somehow ‘forgotten’ previously.

Roaring Fire, Cosy, Warm…

“Kwasukela ngantsomi…”(once upon a time…), my dad would wait for our response before continuing with the tale, “Chosi chebelele ndaba zolwimi lwemfene.” ( Chosi Chebelele is one of those untranslatable phrases, used to capture childrens attention as an introduction to a tale and ‘ndaba zolwimi lwe mfeme’ directly translated is ‘news from a baboon’s toungue’). My father would continue with the tale,”Kwakhukho uJakalashe noMvolovu” (There was a Jackal and a Wolf)…We would excitedly gather closer around him as he would tell, not one but, two or three stories until it would be time for us to go to sleep and he would tell us his famous bedtime tale of ants going to fetch a grain of wheat from one place to take to another place. You see this one tale has never ended to this day and it would always end up making us sleep. I bet if I were to tell the same story to the kids of today they would probably say, “..never mind we get it, tell us another story”. At the end of each story he would ask us what would we would have done if we were the characters in the story or what would we have changed in the narrative and he would also explain the lessons behind these captivating stories.

Folktales, Fables, Tales, Stories

We, as Africans, are a nation that has a great storytelling culture, even though we depicted our history and teachings in many other ways, storytelling has always been part of our daily and nightly lives. Whether it was done to while away time by herd boys, or teaching young girls lessons on virtuosity by elder women in the fields, or used to explain a decision in the tribal court(kgotla or inkundla) by an elder, or to entertain the kids with educational fables around the evening fire or reminding us of our ancient history of great kings and queens, stories were and are always part of the Africans life. Africa’s storytelling ensured that tradition, beliefs and culture are not lost but carried over for future generations, it plays a big role in preserving cultural knowledge and the sharing of generational wisdom and social values, which I believe we should cherish. It is part of our DNA, we have managed to hone this enchanting ability to paint a picture of any story, any simple story could be turned into the most riveting story you have ever heard, full of humour, suspense and charisma.

The idea that reading a child a bedtime story is a western custom is merely a myth, storytelling has always been around in Africa for centuries. Before television and mobile phones, this was one of the many ways to entertain children and have family quality time after an evening meal. My desire is for the younger and the future generation to go back to basics and enjoy our simple but beautiful things like storytelling. For the next couple of months I will feature stories, these will be a combination of Fiction, Non Fiction, mythical, fables, tales, etc. I hope you and your children enjoy them.

#wisdom #teachings #vision #culture
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  1. Innovation and technology has transcended traditional story telling. You still find in the kiddies channels a use of the old characters e.g. fox, rabbit and tortoise in trying to keep up with the essence/foundation of story telling.

    Maybe we need to find ways of making these tv moments more about family time and information sharing.

  2. We are the gatekeepers of so many family and cultural traditions as such our kids will only learn and replicate what we prioritize and teach them. We are looking forward to the stories.

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