Storytelling Festival in Jakarta

The VI Story-Telling Festival organized by Klompok Pencinta Bacaan Anak (KPBA - Society for the Advancement of Children’s Literature).

IBBY was invited to attend the festival organized by KPBA. IBBY EC member Anne Pellowski took part in the festival and Liz Page the IBBY Administrative Director attended as a guest. The programme was varied and included storytellers from Japan, Singapore the USA and Indonesia. Murti Bunanta organized the festival, which was supported by the Kompas daily newspaper, the Murti Bunanta Foundation and KPBA. The location was the Bentara Budaya community centre, which is sponsored by Kompas.

The press conference took place on 21 July at the offices of KPBA and about six journalists attended. The announcement of the support that IBBY, through the Tsunami appeal, is able to give to the society to help the children in northern Sumatra was well received. One group of children from the Aceh province took part in the festival and they had travelled to Jakarta in time to attend the press conference. One young boy was found to be a natural storyteller although he was rather shy in front of the audience.

The festival began on Saturday, 23 July with a diverse programme: children’s groups from Jakarta; storyteller Margaret Read MacDonald from the US; and Panna d/o Kantilal a storyteller from Singapore. The official opening ceremony took place in the afternoon with a rousing welcome on the drums!

Indonesian folklore was the main theme of the Festival. An impressive puppet theatre from Japan entertained the audience, even though it seemed to frighten some of the younger members. Large puppets from the Ohanashi Caravan Puppet Centre jumped around the stage depicting the clever hero of many folk tales: Kancil the smart little mouse deer who could outwit even the scariest of monsters. Anne Pellowski presented the Wayang Beber, one of the oldest forms of indigenous storytelling, which has fallen out of use in recent years. Anne, with the help of volunteers at the KPBA, made two new story scrolls especially for the festival and presented them.

The events ended with a seminar on Tuesday afternoon. Anne Pellowski presented a paper about the origins of early picture storytelling in Southeast Asia. Sachiko Watanabe, Director of the Ohanashi Caravan, gave a paper with the title From Page to Stage: Sharing the excitement of stories with children through interactive puppet-show performances. The seminar was well attended by teachers and students.

The festival was a good opportunity to learn more about the project in the Aceh province in northern Sumatra for the relief of the Tsunami victims. A set of picture books will be printed in the Aceh language and distributed to the children. In addition, adults will be trained to use the books with the children and introduce simple ways of telling stories, such as string stories and paper folding stories. The books are ready and will be distributed soon; the Murti Bunanta Foundation has already distributed thousands of books in the area.

The whole experience of the Festival and meeting the people was very exciting and useful. By attending such a festival, we can cement friendships between IBBY members and other friends around the world.

Liz Page, August 2005

Read more about the project in Aceh Province, Sumatra