Tue | Apr 20, 2021

Afro-Jamaican storytelling lecture series gains greater traction online

Published:Saturday | March 6, 2021 | 12:18 AM
Bernard Jankee
Bernard Jankee

The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB) is pleased with the extended reach of its recently concluded lecture series, which was staged virtually this year because of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Each February, the ACIJ/JMB highlights a particular aspect of Jamaica’s culture and heritage.

This year, the institute hosted a four-part lecture series on Afro-Jamaican storytelling, under the theme: ‘Jack Mandora: The Roots of Afro-Jamaican Storytelling as an Intangible Cultural Heritage’.

The lectures were broadcast live on the entity’s YouTube channel, and remain there for continuous viewing.

Director of the ACIJ/JMB, Bernard Jankee, told JIS News that the use of YouTube broadened the reach of the lectures.

“One thing that struck us as being quite positive is that this online platform that we have chosen to use this year has actually brought more viewers and participants to our programmes because, physically, we have limited space,” he said.

“More people have tuned into our programme this year than in the past. The pandemic has its downside but this is one positive that has come out of a bad situation, and so we are going to continue to explore the use of this technology in spreading the word further and wider. We are quite surprised and pleased that adversity has created some opportunities,” he noted.

The first lecture, titled ‘Storytelling: As Tangible as Jerusalem School-Room’, was delivered on February 4 by College Orator, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Dr Amina Blackwood-Meeks.

This was followed by ‘Reflections on the Storytelling Tradition’ by Acting Senior Research Fellow at the ACIJ/JMB, Kesia Weise, on February 11, with Professor Emeritus John Ayotunde Bewaji, of The University of the West Indies (UWI), presenting on ‘Storytelling as Social Engineering – the Yoruba Example’ on February 18.

The lecture series closed on February 26 with a conversation with retired teacher and storyteller, Dr Jean Small, who spoke about her involvement with storytelling.

Jankee said that the lectures amassed hundreds of views within days of being streamed and had live-stream participants from Scotland and other parts of the European continent, Africa, United States of America and Jamaica. The response from participants, he shared, has been positive.

“We have pretty good responses. We have had quite a few people tuning in to the presentations, some of Jamaican descent and searching for their roots. The comments have generally been positive. In fact, in one of the presentations, a member of the online audience, a Nigerian, asked if he could tell a story. That has been the reaction to the series,” Jankee said.

He said that storytelling is an undeniable part of the Jamaican cultural make-up, and urged that persons view and utilise the content the ACIJ/JMB has made available online.

“I would encourage all Jamaicans to visit YouTube, plug in ACIJ/JMB, and all our lectures and all other features we have done on Jamaican history and culture are right there and free for viewing. So log on, check it out and give us some feedback, because that will also help us to fine-tune, as necessary, and see to what extent we have been able to capture and reflect our history and culture,” Jankee said.

The ACIJ/JMB is a division of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

Its mandate is to research, document and disseminate information on African heritage and its impact on Jamaican culture. The division highlights the contribution of African cultural retentions to Jamaican belief systems to instil awareness and appreciation of African culture as a part of Jamaican heritage.