The Amsterdam Storytelling Festival
– by Christine Fenech
As different as we are from each other and as different our experiences are, whenever storytellers tell their stories, they are also telling us a piece of ours. Maybe one that we didn’t even know needed a voice.
And one thing that the Amsterdam Storytelling Festival offers is a platform for very diverse voices and for very diverse experiences – some of which also extreme. This diversity is also represented in the artistic directors of the programme Raphael Rodan an Israeli who is established in the Netherlands and Sahand Sahebdivani a dutchman of Iranian descent – founders of the Storytelling centre and Mezrab.
The theme this year was Liberation and storytellers from all over the world came to share what this theme meant to them. Some storytellers (Sheila Arnold and Len Cabral) explored how stories could help in the liberation from social prejudice and injustice as experienced by African Americans, by minorities and persecuted groups around the world. With the events going on in Israel and Gaza at the moment, its relevance was not missed. Danni Cullen spoke about liberation from the indoctrination she received in childhood and that she came face to face with through Vipassana mediation. Irina Koriazova spoke about the liberation from depression and from the tyranny of memory. David Labi described the liberation from the guilt and shame he experienced from having neglected his relationship with his father and how but finding his father’s story he was able to go on a be a father himself. Verona Verbakel’s intense story explored the ethical implications of shutting young people in care homes that provide the very opposite of the protection they are supposed to provide.
This is far from a complete list these are just the ones I could experience in the two days I participated, but I think what stays with me is how heart-warming, how uncomfortable and how important it is to be around people whose experiences are so different to your own, how important it is to have your comfort and your privilege reflected back at you through the listening of the experiences of others. How important it is to face your illusive sense of certainty about the way you look at the world and to be confronted by the myriads of other perspectives out there.
As I get older, I find that I like having my world shaken, I like to be reminded how much I don’t know, how easy it is to get fixed in a mindset. I like to be reminded that, however uncomfortable, I need to keep moving the boundaries of my certainty and to let stories in so that through that confrontation they show me which part of myself still needs narrating and how that narrative needs to change to find harmony in this increasingly complex world.
Christine Fenech is an alumnus of the Storytelling Academy and Chief Storyteller.