The Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CHAP) at the CHS will host a gathering of tradition bearers from different cultures living in Connecticut, to share their traditional oral narratives in their languages, with translation. The event will bring together some amazing cultural resource people who are keepers of important narrative wisdom and knowledge. Audiences will be able to meet the speakers and learn more about the richness of traditions that are in different languages. We will begin with a reception and give people a chance to meet and to view the Connecticut: 50 Objects/50 Stories exhibit. We will then have a sharing circle with one story/narrative from each artist with translation and background. The atmosphere will be informal and friendly. The event is free.
Artists and speakers will include Trudie Lamb Richmond, a revered Connecticut Indian tradition bearer and educator; the Somali Bantu Women’s chant group; Senegalese griot Boubacar Diebaté; Joyce Ashuntantang, a poet from Cameroon who is using traditional knowledge in her writing; Yeshi Dorjee from Tibet;Won Ldy Paye from Liberia and Gideon Ampeire, a young musician from Uganda who collects his grandfather’s traditional stories. Anyone who wishes to present similar traditional narrative is welcome also.
The event is an introduction to a project that will locate and bring to public attention some of the state’s artists with special skills in traditional narrative or oral history; “folk poets” who – in their native languages – carry the stories and the history/genealogies/epic poems/lesson stories of their people from a body of narrative that has often existed for generations within communities. Many of these skilled speakers also recite narratives of how their group immigrated to Connecticut.
The goals of the project are to give Greater Hartford audiences a chance to hear oral traditions and cultural narratives important to groups of people who are living here now. We don’t often get to hear these voices in our society, but the historical and cultural content can teach us much about resilience, values, wisdom and humor of our new neighbors or the state’s original peoples and settlers. The project also honors the language diversity and poetry that can be found in the cultural expressions of ordinary people with extraordinary knowledge and gifts of speech. Rather than professional or performance-oriented storytelling, our project presents narratives grounded in the speakers’ personal experience and cultural roots.