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Liyana Low reports on a story-telling event at NLB.

Tales of rights and wrong

Liyana Low

The simple act of storytelling was used to promote the awareness of the profound issue of human rights in an event organised by the Storytelling Association (Singapore) last Saturday evening.

The storytelling session, called Tales of Hope & Spirit: From Mouth to Heart, was held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Even though, the stories are simple folk tales and could be easily read to children, when read to adults, these stories take on a different level of understanding," added Ms Kamini Ramachandran, president of the Storytelling Association.

The age-old genre of folk tales makes it easy for people of all ages to relate to the stories.

"The fact that they are ancient folk tales, passed on from generation to generation, reflects the universality of the issue of respecting somebody's rights," said Ms Kamini.

Furthermore, the stories that were told originated from different parts of the world, indicating that respecting human rights is a worldwide issue, and not just restricted to some countries, she added.

Thanking the Storytelling Association for their participation in the U60 programme, Mr Choo Zheng Xi, the co-chairperson for the U60 celebrations agreed, saying: "Through stories, people would be able to see the issue of human rights in a wider scope, and hopefully the human rights discourse will be normalized and framed in a positive manner".

U60 is the committee that organises events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Ms Amy Tan, 34, a teacher at Northlight School, found the storytelling an effective medium because she was able to empathise with the characters in the stories more, and hence, it is a good way for people to start thinking about human rights.

Indeed, the stories that were told appeared to connect well with a responsive audience, many of whom nodded their heads and laughed appreciatively as the storytellers presented their stories.

These old stories were personally picked by each of the storytellers, who volunteered their services once they heard of the event from Ms Kamini.

According to her, the storytellers for the event chose their own stories according to what they felt were most suited for the evening.

"After all, it is the right of the storytellers to choose the stories that are close to their heart," she said.

However, the lack of funding made it difficult for the organisers to publicise the event to a wider audience.

"We are all volunteers, so we didn't have the money to really publicise the event," said Ms Kamini.

Despite these constraints, the room was almost packed with people mainly in their 30s and 40s.

Perhaps as a testament to the power of the spoken word, one factor that did help with the publicity was the word of mouth. Some of the audience members came down to support their friends who were telling the stories.

Said Ms Tan: "I got an e-mail from one of the storytellers asking me to come down for this event, and I'm enjoying my first time at such an event."

More conventional media also had a part to play. According to Ms Kamini, some members of the audience also came down because they heard mentioned on 93.8 Live.

More details about the Storytelling Association (Singapore) can be found at http://www.storytellingsingapore.com/.

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