Meet Gen Z storytellers taking on the age-old art form
Young storytellers Charlotte Elizabeth and Fahim Murshed, both 22, never imagined they would one day pursue a career in storytelling. But after taking a required storytelling module taught by master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran, as part of their performing arts diploma in 2018, they fell in love with the art form and have not looked back since.
After graduating with their diploma, they joined a mentoring programme run by The Storytelling Centre Limited, a non-profit organisation that aims to foster and advance the art of storytelling. Since coming on board as mentees under the guidance of StoryFest’s creative producer, Kamini, they have taken part in many storytelling performances that cater to both children and adult audiences.
Their latest performance is Stories From Our Shores: The Young Storytellers Showcase. The show is part of StoryFest 2021, an annual storytelling festival co-presented by The Storytelling Centre and The Arts House, which runs until 11 Jul. The performance revives timeless folklores of Singapore by marrying storytelling with percussive instruments and vibrant illustrations.
Read on as they share how they fell in love with the age-old art form of storytelling, and how they are making it relevant in the digital age.
What made you want to pursue storytelling as a career?
Charlotte: In 2018, my first year at LASALLE College of the Arts, I took a storytelling module and as part of the class, I had to perform an Asian folktale. I chose a Vietnamese folktale that my mother used to tell me when I was a child. I always felt disconnected from my culture, but after spending eight weeks rehearsing, and finally telling the story, I had newfound appreciation for my culture and heritage. That moved me to want to keep the oral tradition alive for the next generation.
Fahim: Like Charlotte, I first had a go at storytelling while studying performing arts. Being able to share stories like the legend of Sang Nila Utama and Raja Suran, while standing on the very same soil that the tale speaks of, allows me to connect with people and it also makes me proud to be a Singaporean.
What do you love most about the art of storytelling?
Charlotte: I love that storytelling allows me to “travel” to a new part of the world without hopping on a plane. An immense amount of research goes into the stories that I tell so that I can fully honour the story, and through the research, I learn about different cultures which enables me to share stories from all around the world.
Fahim: The best part about telling stories has always been when somebody remembers the story I told them. It is easy to entertain, but to be able to share a story with someone and have it resonate with them, and for them to then share it with someone else, shows me that it has made a lasting impact on them.
How do you make the age-old craft of oral storytelling relevant in today’s digital age?
Charlotte: I love to use songs, rhymes and puppets to tell a story. Sometimes, I also incorporate a craft segment after a storytelling session for young audiences where the children and I make something that they can bring home as a memory of the story they heard.
Fahim: Every time I tell a story in person or through digital platforms, I always try to find some level of quirkiness and hilarity within the story. Whether it is talking tortoises, or over-eating elephant gods, the humour within a story always transcends the digital screens.
What are you excited about as a storyteller?
Charlotte: I am working on expanding my repertoire of stories, in particular stories about Southeast Asian women. There are so many untold legends and folktales about strong women and I believe that these stories must be shared because of the power of storytelling to spark change, educate and empower young women and girls everywhere.
Fahim: Being a young storyteller and having the platform to share my stories with the world is a great privilege. I want to be a voice for the minorities and represent people who look like me. I want them to feel like they belong and feel seen.
Replies were edited and condensed for clarity.
Learn more about Stories From Our Shores: The Young Storytellers Showcase here.