by Valerie Tutson
I had returned to the States after 5 weeks in South Africa. I received a fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation to explore storytelling in South Africa. This was a thrill. I had made my first trip there in 1988 during a State of Emergency under Apartheidt. I was good friends with storyteller/writer Gcina Mhlophe who had invited me to come. I had been several times since then and watched what Gcina was doing to support storytelling in her country as I developed my work as a storyteller in the US. A challenge to being a contemporary or “revivalist” storyteller, is this question of “tradition” and what is “legitimate storytelling.” Are you a “real” cultural storyteller if you get your stories from a book? And, who wrote the book? I wanted to explore traditional and contemporary storytelling in South Africa. I wanted to experience a “living book.” Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa is a high sanusi in the Zulu tradition. He is a culture bearer/culture keeper; a storyteller and a healer whose work had brought great challenges in his life. He was willing to share some with me. The experience was so powerful. It was a story that I need to share.
Valerie Tutson graduated from Brown University with a self-designed major, Storytelling As A Communications’ Art. Since 1991 she has worked as a full time storyteller. She tells stories from the world to the world with an emphasis on African/African American traditions and history, and retellings of Bible stories. She delights audiences of all ages with songs and stories learned in her travels. She also teaches workshops in storytelling. Valerie is a founding member of RIBS (The Rhode Island Black Storytellers) and Festival Director for its annual “FUNDA FEST: A Celebration of Black Storytelling.”