Performing Stories: Orality Yesterday and Today
This workshop, animated by Jane Taylor from Durham University, was something of an experiment - or an act of faith. The intention was to allow space for the exchange of folktale and myth and legend - a gamble that amply paid off. Folktales, of course, share characteristics across the continents and cultures; there is evidence indeed that they travel from country to country, and that cultures, however different, share a 'grammar' of stories. The danger, of course, was that folktale and myth and legend might no longer be current in Sri Lanka; in the event, it seemed that different cultures - Sinhala, Tamil, European - had everything to learn from each other. That this was so emerged especially from an excellent contribution from Professor Rohini Paranavitana, a specialist in Sinhala folklore, who was able to enlarge understanding of the resources of Sinhala storytelling.
Those present represented a wide spectrum: there were students, colleagues from the languages departments, and members of the Sabaragamuwa University staff development programme, all of whom rose to the challenge of the occasion with vigour and enthusiasm. It was a real pleasure to discover how far folktales, folktale motifs, and folktale structures were recognizable across languages; it was a pleasure to see the participants contributing their own stories, and recognizing stories from the other side of the world.
Students and staff were interested, and delighted, to find how far they could communicate via the medium of folktale and myth; for the students perhaps especially, the experience of sharing stories was an empowering one, and it is hoped that further collaboration on this topic will be possible.