World-renowned storyteller Gcina Mhlophe will be one of the performers. (Image: Sibikwa Arts Centre)Storytelling has been used for centuries to pass on knowledge and wisdom to the younger generation and although the practice has slowly diminished, it will be celebrated in Johannesburg during March.Celebrating 20 years of freedom, The Sibikwa Storytelling Festival aims to foster social cohesion, promote indigenous languages, give a platform to sign language, and build national identity.Organisers at the Sibikwa Arts Centre explain that the festival will include histories, languages, cultures and music in performances and workshops hosted by seasoned storytellers, musicians and clowns. It is on at the Soweto Theatre from 10 to 12 March, and then from 18 to 21 March at the centre.Performances and workshops will feature world-renowned storyteller Gcina Mhlophe; multi-instrumentalist Pops Mohamed with Musical San Stories; Clowns Without Borders; Mime le Mot (aka Sibo Masondo), an upcoming deaf mime artist from KwaZulu-Natal; the co-founder of Imisembe Yelanga Storytellers, Nonhlanhla Hadebe; multi-talented Mosoeu Ketlele of the Zanendaba Storytellers; Hlohonolo Dube from the Sibikwa Arts Centre; and veteran storyteller Mpho Molikeng from Lesotho. The Open Mic Sessions at Sibikwa will be MC’d by the Streetqueen, aka Ntsiki Mazwai. People can come and tell their own stories. There will be prizes are up for grabs.PROGRAMME FOR THE YOUNGSTERSThe programme at the Soweto Theatre is aligned to a younger audience. It will host pre-schoolers and children in grades one to three on 10 and 11 March. It will then host pupils in grades four to seven on 12 March.On 10 March, the festival will kick off with Clowns Without Borders South Africa at 11am. They will present Siyajabula, a fun-filled performance using nonverbal physical comedy with hilarious characters up to no-good; music; storytelling; and dance. The clowns will be followed by Eenie Meanie Greenie GROW performed by Mime le Mot. In this delightful show Eenie, a gardener, fends off bugs and a naughty monkey. A teachers’ workshop starts at 2.30pm presented by Clowns Without Borders. Storytelling – Tapping the Power of Narrative will cover techniques on how to tell stories, how to create stories and the value of storytelling in the classroom.The following day, seasoned storytellers Nonhlanhla Hadebe and Mosoeu Ketlele will tell a medley of African stories, such as Mthokozisi, the story of why sangomas wear animal skins; tales about how stories began; and The Eagle that did not Fly. The stories start at 10am.Mohamed will take over at 11am with Musical San Stories, in which he will share his knowledge of the San. The focus will be on respect for all creatures. He will play various traditional instruments throughout his stories.The Open Mic Session at 12pm will give participants, both young and old, the opportunity to tell their own stories. The afternoon teachers’ workshop will start at 2.30pm, facilitated by Dube. Story Angle is based on how stories are told. Participants will learn and understand the basic approach to storytelling.The session at Soweto Theatre will end on 12 March with Lesotho-born artist Molikeng, who will weave legends, folktales and traditional stories from the Mountain Kingdom into a unique African experience tailored for young children, accompanied by a variety of traditional musical instruments. At 11am, Hadebe and Ketlele will bring a medley of African stories such as Spider the Drummer, Rabbit on the Moon and Metsi to life, while broaching subjects as learning to listen and water awareness.GOING BACK TO DAVEYTONThe festival will move to the Sibikwa Arts Centre on 18 March, starting with a medley of African stories presented by Hadebe, for pre-schoolers and grades one to three, and Ketlele for children in grades four to seven from 10am.Clowns Without Borders South Africa will present Siyajabula at 11am for younger audiences, and internationally acclaimed storyteller, actor, poet, playwright, director and author Mhlophe, will mesmerise the audience with a selection of her most enthralling stories for children in grades four to seven.At noon, the Open Mic Session hosted by the Streetqueen will be open to all ages, and in the afternoon there will be a teachers’ workshop conducted by Mhlophe. She will focus on how to delve into our own personal journeys, using the book of our lives as a guide to create stories.Hadebe will be back on 19 March, presenting a medley of African stories such as Spider the Drummer and Rabbit on the Moon. A performance of Siyajabula at 11am will host stories by Molikeng and Mohamed’s Musical San Stories.The Open Mic Session will take place at noon, and the afternoon session at 2.30pm will be a teachers’ workshop titled Storytelling – Tapping the Power of Narrative. Presented by Clowns Without Borders, it will cover techniques on how to tell stories, how to create stories, and the value of storytelling in the classroom.Masondo’s Eenie Meanie Greenie GROW and Mohamed’s Musical San Stories will begin proceedings on 20 March at 10am. At 11am, there will be traditional stories from Lesotho with Molikeng and a performance by Mime le Mot called Point Blank, a collection of mimed stories inspired by the great French mime artist Marcel Marceau and infused with South African influences. Mime le Mot is a comedian at heart and his stories are deliciously funny. An Open Mic Session starts at noon.On 21 March, the last day of the festival, there will be a Storytelling Competition, open to anyone older than 15 who can tell a good story. Pre-booking is essential. Stories can be told in any of the official languages but should not be longer than 10 minutes. First prize is R3 000, second R1 500 and third R750, while a prize of R500 will be awarded to the most promising storyteller.Vetkoek and bunny chow will be available. Entry fees are R25 for the whole morning, R25 per workshop and R10 to enter the competition. For more information, visit the Sibikwa Arts Festival; for bookings contact Michael Mabena on 011 422 43 59 or email [email protected] FROM DAVEYTONThe arts centre was established in 1988 after a chance meeting between theatre stalwarts Smal Ndaba and Phyllis Klotz. Over the years, Sibikwa has given young people focus and hope for the future. It uses performances, festivals and workshops to raise awareness of the role the arts can play in community development.The centre uses the arts to validate the lives of ordinary people by creating plays which reflect their daily lives. Sibikwa promotes quality arts education, theatre performance, vocational training and job creation.