Storytelling and Deeper Understanding Ubuntu in collaboration with the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation-USA In March 2014 the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation-USA launched a special web series that explores the ways in which storytelling can be used to promote world peace. The multimedia project features a variety of performances and perspectives collected from master storytellers participating in the ISC’s teller-in-residence program. Rebecca Popham, managing editor, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation-USA and director of the project, tells us that sharing oral traditions from all over the world illustrates how the art of storytelling promotes diversity and deepens understanding across cultures in the quest for peace across the globe. The project promotes the spirit of Ubuntu, a philosophy of human connectedness espoused by Desmond Tutu.
Telling Stories That Matter
As a partner with the Washington, D.C. organization, Alliance for Peacebuilding, the International Storytelling Center reinforces the importance of sharing stories to build peace among peoples and nations. In this Shindig “Peace Call,” ISC director Kiran Singh Sirah and AfP director Melanie Greenberg share stories of peacebuilding and highlight this important partnership.
International Storytelling Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate:
ISC is one of fewer than 200 nationwide affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution. Through this partnership, the Center shares Smithsonian artifacts for display in Jonesborough and collaborates on Smithsonian’s programs to advance the cause of storytelling.Using Storytelling in nonprofit leadershipFollowing a successful regional workshop, ISC launched a national leadership training initiative for the United Way of America in 2008. Leading a series of workshops at the Center in Jonesborough and in venues across the country, ISC trained United Way leaders in how to use storytelling to enhance the organization’s communications efforts, fundraising events, internal management, and impact on communities. The collaboration marked ISC’s first opportunity to use storytelling as a training tool within a national organization.
Storytelling and Healthcare: Stories for the Soul In 2002, ISC brought storytelling to a special new audience: hospital patients. In partnership with the Mountain States Health Alliance, a network of 14 hospitals in East Tennessee, ISC produced a series of performances by master storytellers that were broadcast on a dedicated channel on hospital TVs. Built on research that showed a strong link between stories and healing, the programming was a comforting alternative to patients who were tired of watching reruns and afternoon talk shows. Stories for the Soul, as the program became known, eventually expanded to include recorded concerts for pediatric patients.
Connecting with China’s Story In 1997, ISC’s leadership made its first foray into international outreach by leading a delegation of 60 American storytellers (and story listeners) to China for a series of cultural exchanges. In addition to stops in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the group traveled to the village of Gengcun, a tiny farming community in Central China with an extraordinary population of storytellers (134 in a population of just 1,100). After forming a bond with the villagers, who organized special storytelling concerts in their own homes, the American delegation raised funds to help the village build a new school and refurbish its public storytelling hall. In 2001, the International Storytelling Center asked Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-Noh-Tec to continue the advancement of this ongoing international storytelling inter-cultural exchange.
Storytelling and Diplomacy Vice President Al Gore was a special guest of the National Storytelling Festival in 1995, where he helped launch the fundraising effort that would build the organization’s downtown campus. Christening Jonesborough “the epicenter of American storytelling” in a speech he gave on the grounds of the Festival, Gore talked about his experience using personal stories as a peace-building tool in international relations. The Vice President enjoyed his time in Jonesborough so much that he invited ISC and a delegation of storytellers to his home in Washington, D.C. to recreate a miniature storytelling festival—replete with tents!—for a diplomatic event.
A Storytelling Competition for Peace The International Storytelling Center joined with MasterPeace, a grass-roots peace movement based in the Netherlands, to launch a global storytelling competition, offering all storytellers around the world a platform to share their personal experience about what inspired them to work for peace. The winning story will be presented at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2014, the International Day of Peace. “The power of storytelling is unquestionable. By listening and telling our stories we can unite as one creative global human family and then together contribute to building a better world. We are delighted to be partnering with the international award-winning MasterPeace organization on this exciting project to celebrate UN International day of Peace.” —Kiran Singh Sirah, Executive Director, International Storytelling Center
Generations and Genre
From folk and family, literature and theater, music and poetry, the Festival’s tellers have a rich tapestry of backgrounds and genres to share. The 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion, Anita Norman, a Tennessee resident, and one of a new generation of storytellers, will perform at the 2014 National Storytelling Festival. Norman's participation is sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.
“The festival gives ample evidence that the spoken word has not yet succumbed to the abbreviated argot of tweets, instant messaging, acronyms, and emoticons. In Jonesborough, the world’s oldest art form is flourishing.”
—Harold Closter, Director, Smithsonian Affiliations (2011)
Designed to help a wide variety of people and organizations explore storytelling as a way to build community, the Telling Stories That Matter toolkit offers strategies for eliciting, collecting, sharing, and presenting stories and other meaningful conversations in an ethical way. Authored by ISC’s President, Kiran Singh Sirah, the toolkit was informed by his deep experience as a cultural practitioner, folklorist, and peace builder. He offers techniques and tips for cross-cultural collaboration, conflict prevention, and community empowerment, as well as information about how to promote understanding, establish interfaith dialogues, build rapport and solidarity, and break down barriers
Telling Stories that Matter Digital toolkit
International Storytelling Centre
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