Wed | Dec 7, 2022

Storytelling Foundation has a fun-filled week

Published:Saturday | November 19, 2022 | 12:05 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks.
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks.
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks smiles broadly as she peruses her just-launched book.
Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks smiles broadly as she peruses her just-launched book.
Costa Rica’s ambassador to Jamaica Georgia Guillen-Grillo spoke of the links between the two countries.
Costa Rica’s ambassador to Jamaica Georgia Guillen-Grillo spoke of the links between the two countries.
Alma Mock Yen, a friend of the late Ranny Williams, spoke fondly of his life and work.
Alma Mock Yen, a friend of the late Ranny Williams, spoke fondly of his life and work.

The Ntukuma Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica’s annual storytelling week has so far been fun-filled. It culminates on Sunday afternoon in the Island Village complex, Ocho Rios, with more of the eating, drinking and storytelling that has marked the week’s other events.

Even the sudden rain that threatened to stop the pre-launch session at Emancipation Park last Sunday afternoon turned out to be showers of blessing. Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks, founder and artistic director of Ntukuma, told The Gleaner that the audience quickly retreated to the park’s Dome and continued with games, storytelling and song about rain and water. And the radio interview with Radio Jamaica’s Gerry McDaniel was able to go on.

“The audience loved it,” Blackwood Meeks said.

Monday’s official launch in the adult section of the Kingston & St Andrew Parish Library, which was transformed into an Ananse the spiderman’s garden, also went well, she said.

“Our launches always feature children, and we had a good two hours with those who came from various parts of the island – St Mary, St Elizabeth, Clarendon, St Thomas and, of course, Kingston and St Andrew. It was truly amazing that they came out on a day when persons were not sure about how they would travel because of the transportation strike.”

Blackwood Meeks said that a major challenge Ntukuma faces is finding a home. Still, it continues to soldier on, and a storytelling retrospective is being set up at the library, especially for students of CXC Theatre Arts.

Additionally, a book titled The Children Ought to Know, comprising papers, stories and information from the past 10 years of conferences and festivals, which Blackwood Meeks had compiled, was launched on Tuesday at The Sky Gallery, Phoenix Avenue. A “touching message” from the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange was read by her permanent secretary.


On Wednesday afternoon, Blackwood Meeks and Ntukuma members were found in the Ananse Garden at the Tom Redcam library. The main event was a Tea Meeting hosted by Richard Derby, educator, storyteller and the leader for 50 years of the Manchioneal Cultural Group. Guests included Costa Rica’s ambassador to Jamaica, Mrs Georgia Guillen-Grillo, who spoke glowingly of the contribution made by Jamaicans to the growth of her country in the last century.

The main speaker was actress, broadcaster and educator Alma Mock Yen, who turned 94 on Tuesday. Her lively, informative and amusing talk was on her late friend and colleague, the actor, writer, researcher and cultural icon Ranny Williams. According to Mock Yen, he introduced the popular Ananse character to Jamaica in July 1942 at Marcus Garvey’s Edelweiss Park. He went on to play the character in several Little Theatre Movement annual pantomimes.

There were a number of video presentations on a large screen, including one by Poet Laureate Olive Senior on “Colon Man”, a history of Jamaicans involved in the building of the Panama Canal a century ago. Many schoolchildren took part in the drama-filled Tea Meeting, dropping fake paper money in a jar to put on stage or take down various acts.

The mostly youthful Manchioneal Cultural Group provided exciting music and song, the grizzled Derby being the exception. The others were Tiara McKenzie, Sasahara Peterkin, Desrick Kenton and 4-year-old Danielle Bryan, whose musical instrument was a shaker.

Blackwood Meeks told me that activities move to Liberty Hall on King Street on Saturday morning in downtown Kingston. International Men’s Day will be observed, and there will be a talk by Steven Golding, president of the United Negro Improvement Association.

“In the talk titled In These Footsteps, he’s asking where we can see the presence of Marcus Garvey, the founder of the UNIA and Jamaica’s first national hero, in male leadership in Jamaica,” said.

Blackwood Meeks said, “We want persons who are coming to bring their favourite Marcus Garvey poems and quotations.”

She continued: “Sunday is National Storytelling Day, and on that day, we normally go to the libraries. But it falls on a Sunday this year, so we face a challenge. Can we establish our libraries as a place where Jamaicans want to go, even on a Sunday, to be entertained, to talk about books and to read books?” (She was referring to a hoped-for revival of the Pre-Independence concept of Pleasant Sunday Afternoons, but at libraries.)

The session will be at the St Ann Parish Library in the Marcus Garvey room. Ntukuma is inviting delegations from other St Mary libraries and also librarians from all over Jamaica to take the trip to St Ann.

From the library, Ntukuma goes to Island Village, with which Ntukuma has partnered since June for “Six for 60”, six months of storytelling every third Sunday in celebration of Jamaica 60. It culminates on National Storytelling Day.

Blackwood Meeks said she encouraged people to tell stories while having refreshments. A games master will guide the evening, which will see, among other things, storytelling contests between senior and younger citizens.