Resurrecting Tradition: Moonlight Storytelling Breathes Life into Fading Culture

(Source: Educating Hearts Blog)

By Ya Sohna Sonko

Storytelling, a cherished tradition in Gambian homes years ago, introduced children to words like “talling etalling” and “lebon loupain,” inculcated in their vocabularies the concept of gaining wisdom and moral lessons.

Traditional practices like Storytelling have faded slowly in an era dominated by technological advancements and oversized screens. People now turn to animated TV shows and gadgets for information and entertainment, leaving cultural practices like Storytelling forgotten. However, a “Moonlight Storytelling” campaign aims to rekindle this cultural practice, restoring it in community life.

The Rural Child, a youth-led charity organization in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), initiated Moonlight Storytelling events in 2022. These gatherings bring together young people from diverse communities, mirroring the community campfire gatherings of the past. At the center of these events, an elder tells tales, often fictional but rich in moral teachings. Additionally, these events provide a platform for irregular migration returnees to share their experiences, aiming to dissuade young people from these dangerous journeys.

Alagie Jallow, coordinator and founder of The Rural Child, emphasized the importance of reviving Storytelling, especially for the development of young people. He stated, “The inspiration for Moonlight Storytelling was rooted in its pivotal role in guiding children from childhood to adolescence and adulthood.”

These events occur several times a year and are structured to help young people extract moral lessons from the stories shared. Alagie Jallow explained the significance of incorporating migrant returnees into the events: “Storytelling itself is a cultural practice used to teach young people discipline, endurance, and the importance of heeding elderly advice. We believed it wise to merge both, preserving our culture while educating the younger generation about the perils of irregular migration.”

Jallow stressed the organization’s commitment to passing down Storytelling to the younger generation, ensuring they do not lose this vital cultural practice that can guide navigating life.

Fatima Gibba, one of the event’s participants, shared how the stories she heard at Moonlight Storytelling events have broadened her perspective on life. She remarked, “These stories have opened our eyes to life’s realities, bringing to light valuable lessons that textbooks or animated shows may not provide. Moonlight storytelling has become an inspiration for many of us.”

(Source: Thinking Out Loud)

Traditional Storytelling holds great significance in Gambian culture. In an interview with The Point newspaper in 2014, Storyteller Cornelius Gomez emphasized its importance: “Folk tales and fables reflect values. If these wise elements can be instilled in the minds of the young ones, who are liable to be influenced by foreign animation, then Gambian youth would take pride in their culture and lead disciplined and successful lives. The lessons from our folk tales and fables promote positive societal attitudes.”

While storytelling battles to survive in this digital age, it remains an integral part of Gambian culture. Hope is not lost as individuals and groups strive to keep this cultural practice alive.


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