My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood #1-Story Tellers 9/11/01

It is a forgotten art -- storytelling.

I ask you, listeners, how many of you remember the folktales and myths of your forefathers.

I have vague memories of the ones my mother used to tell me of the Tiger Auntie and of Hokkien lullabies about life in the South Seas that long lost its meanings as I shed my dialects for the languages of academia and commerce.

I ask you, where have all the stories in our neighbourhood gone?

Hi welcome to this week's segment of In Your Neighbourhood as we look at the National Library Board's attempt to revitalised the art of storytelling here.

In the heat of this year's General Elections, Singapore may have missed NLB's efforts to bring in two events that maybe of singularly importance to revitalise Singapore's culture.

They are: Asian Children Festival and the Asian Congress of Storytellers.

What's so important about storytelling?

Keynote speaker for the storyteller congress, Wajuppa Tossa explains the importance of traditional folklores.

"These stories are very important, in terms of just the passing on of the cultural heritage. The stories tell of how the people were in the old times that we don't see nowadays. So they would learn what people ate and what people did and what they believed."

These folktales provide cultural anchors to a world that’s over-run by science and technology.

To pinch a phrase from Karl Marx, these stories of our forefathers may yet be the "soul in a soulless world".

Professor Tossa again.

"People are now just too much into the science and technological advancement that they forgot to look at their own selves - what they have. So I think having all these would sort of remind them that we used to be like that. We cannot forget. And we don't know how far the technology can carry us. So if we know what we are and if we can go back, not altogether, not 100 percent. I'm not telling that we should really go against technology or anything, but we should know that if technology fails we could always fall back to our own ways of life."

These are also trying times.

In his opening address, Chairman of NLB Tan Chin Nam laments the great changes brought to our lives by four planes that were hijacked by terror.

In another speech, the chairman of this year's Asian Children Festival, Ramachandran spoke of a world with uncertainty, turbulence and hopelessness.

It's NLB wish that the two recently concluded events will revitalise storytelling and bring back Singapore's rich cultural past.

It won't be easy to do so as today's a new age, the IT age.

The wisdom of our elders is sometimes over-shadowed by the fact that they are now on the wrong side of the IT divide.

We sometimes think that we are better than them, that we know more, that we're better educated and maybe, O heavens forbid, we are better people than our parents and grandparents.

So gradually, the generation gap becomes a communication gap.

The children of today are more entranced with computer games than books but Professor Tossa says that storytelling if properly packaged can capture the children's attention.

"The children were very much amazed at what's going on because we didn't really tell the stories in sort of traditional way. We learn story theatre and also audience participation. The children were so happy to be able to participate in the storytelling. We were not stars but we were their friends. We were bringing them to the stage also. In that way, it worked."

Once the children's interests are piqued, then the next step is naturally to get them to re-initiate the process of communications with their elders.

"We ask them to go to interview their parents and grandparents. By doing that, the children began to talk to the grandparents, asking for stories. The grandparents become needed. They feel that "ah! We’re still valuable. We can still tell our stories to the children."

But what about the language divide?

Our young may not speak the dialects of their grandparents, and the grandparents may not be able to speak English or Mandarin.

Use translators, says Professor Tossa.

"One way is probably to go to the parents first. The parents definitely would be able to speak at least two languages. So they could go to them and then the parents could then go to the grandparents and bring stories to share with the children. I think so there'd be more step of just not going to the grandparents directly but to the parents first. In the very far future or near future, I'm not sure; there may be communication between the children and the grandparents directly."

Professor Tossa is from Mahasarakham, a district in the impoverished Thai northeast region.

She has seen degradation of her beloved mother-tongue, the Issan dialect.

Ajarn Wajuppa fought back to try and preserve the language through her intensive programme of revitalising the art of storytelling in her homeland.

Singapore is far from impoverished, but culturally we have lost touched with those of our forefathers.

Perhaps her method may be applicable to us too, eh?

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.


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