Kinshasa recorded some storytelling shows at the end of March. These evenings, almost more relevant in modern times, were organized on the occasion of World Storytelling Day or Francophonie Week.
However, the actors’ desire to tell stories, the audience’s need to listen, the need, the importance of storytelling in the education or training of people has not dried up. Sizable crowds attended the two consecutive evenings of March 19 and 20 at the French Institute of Kinshasa and the Baya Arts and Culture Center.
In response to questions from ACTUALITE.CD, storyteller Jovitha Songwa hinted at her regret at having seen the pass through which the story goes that will soon be defunct. She returns to his importance in citizenship, his proposals, the languages used for storytelling, etc.
ACTUALITE.CD: What is the importance of storytelling in a modern world?
Jovitha Songwa: Storytelling allows us to capture not only stories but also moral lessons. When you show someone the path of the law, their part goes in the direction of forbidden evil, but you tell them a story, they can identify with that character and change it directly.
A whole law can be described to us, hundreds of books, it can disappear in the mind, but a story remains. We identify with the person who committed this or that act in the story and we are convinced that we will not ask about it again.
Storytelling is also a means of expressing oneself, because in storytelling we use syntaxes, conjugations, and these things facilitate pronunciation. Knowing how to place the verbs, the tenses, and the required places makes eloquence easier. It also makes you dream, it relaxes you.
Can’t you see that storytelling is on the decline in the DRC?
The fairy tale no longer exists. To say it’s going away is to weigh our words, I don’t think it exists anymore. That’s why some stupid things happen. The fairy tale no longer exists because we consider it old, but don’t throw away the old pots, they can always be used. I pray that history will come back to the DRC as before because there are people who have never experienced this and it is wonderful.
You were born in Kinshasa, do you really tell stories like the ancestors?
Yes ! Because I often say that my father didn’t hit me. When I screwed up, he sat me down and told me stories. And not only for me, but also for my brothers and sisters, except it wasn’t by the fire.
My father was born in the village, he lived the palaver, the fairy tale nights. He told us the way he learned it in the village, and I’m telling it the same way because I copied it from my father, who copied it from his father, who copied it from his father, and so on.
Do we teach storytelling at the National Institute of Arts?
We don’t have a storytelling class, but it is taught as a literary genre. We only have the drama department with sub-courses where you can come up with a story to tell. We also teach diction to tell stories. The theater comes from the story, first there was an actor who said the whole text in the form of a story or mono-theatre, then came the second, the third and today we have many actors on stage.
Why don’t the artists who go through this department at INA specialize or bring the story to life?
Because it’s not appreciated. Unfortunately, it’s the theater that gets highlighted. There are no more storytellers, they are gone, they are rare.
And yourself, how far will you go with the story?
I want to keep doing this until my life ends. I started storytelling at the age of 8, I didn’t know it was that, I even made up my own story at the same age. I tell myself I was born to tell stories. I can do theater or comedy, but storytelling is my childhood friend.
Tell more in French, don’t you penalize the local languages?
No ! We are taught in French, although half of the DRC understands Lingala. I think French can also allow us to sell our culture elsewhere. Lingala is good for us too, I have stories in Lingala. There are also didactic and educational purposes in what I do.
Interview by Emmanuel Kuzamba