Saturday, July 11, 2009

PBBY Luncheon for South African Storyteller

The raging rain did not stop me from attending the gala night performance of visiting South African storyteller, Gcina Mhlope-Becker last night at the Little Theatre in the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Gcina, pronounced by clicking the tip of the tongue towards the two front teeth and sliding the last two syllables out, was amazing! She is an actress, writer, performer-storyteller, radio and TV show host in her native South Africa. She has been in the industry of performance storytelling for twenty six years. Her expertise in storytelling, well crafted and honed through years of experience, is very evident in her choice of stories, emotional emphasis, phrasing, body movements and stage blocking. Not only is she a skilled teller, she is warm and spontaneous too. Thus, endearing herself to the Filipino audience present in her session last night.

She told of tales from her country, oral tales and folklore, of Mazanendaba, the woman who discovered stories from the bowels of the ocean. Then there was Lungile, the most beautiful woman in all of South Africa who married a man delivered by birds with beautiful feathers. Simple stories, yes, but they dazzled through her rendition. What touched me were her personal stories on apartheid. Gcina keeps these images alive, preserving them for people to remember. She is being true to her name.

Today, after her successful workshop at the Museo Pambata, the PBBY hosted a lunch for her and Ambasador Vermuelen at Cafe Remedios in Malate. Together with the South African counsel, Mr. Hugo and her daughter, Kweizie, they were treated to Filipino food and warm hospitality. There were plenty of exchanges going around - books, life stories, food, words, more stories and culture. Illustrator Ruben "Totet" De Jesus and writer Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, gave Gcina their best selling books. I told her the story of Monkey and the Turtle. Nina Lim-Yuson of Museo Pambata was the perfect hostess. The lunch was even made more special because of Gcina's daughter, Kweizie, turned thirteen years old today.

It was her wish to visit a country she has not been to on her thirteenth birthday. She got her wish and more! Now, she and her mother found new friends from the Philippines.

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