Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cuentos Los Silos - Storytelling Festival on Tenerife

This one might have been my most adventurous storytelling job yet.
Definitely one of the best.

I was invited to the Festival Internacional del cuento de Los Silos (Los Silos International Storytelling Festival) almost a year ago. My first reaction was to look it up on the Internet; I have been to festival in Spain before, but this one I was not familiar with. Turns out it takes place in a town on Tenerife, Canary Islands. I thought about it for about a whole ten seconds before I agreed to go.

Los Silos is a small town in the northwestern corner of the island. It is far away from most tourist-frequented places (they tell me tourists congregate on the southern beaches of the island where there is sand and less rain). The town is surrounded by banana groves and breathtakingly beautiful volcanic mountains on one side, and the black rocks of the Atlantic shore on the other. From the airport we were taken by car along the long winding road that balances between ocean and mountains, through small cities and towns made of colorful houses, until late in the morning of the day after I left the US (thank you, time difference) we arrived to the main square of Los Silos, and the house that was going to be our home for the weekend.
Before I passed out for 17 hours, I took a small walk around: Around the main square stood the town hall, the building of the old convent that was transformed into the festival headquarters, and the restaurant that was going to be our regular place for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and wifi. I was also introduced to the organizing team of the festival, all extremely friendly, insanely busy, and very patient to repeat sentences when my sleep-deprived brain failed to switch over to Spanish fast enough (it always takes a day or so before I make the switch between two foreign languages).
By the time I rolled out of bed the next morning, the festival was already on full swing. In fact, it had been in full swing for more than a week at that point: The local storytellers of Tenerife, as well as some guest performers, had been making the rounds in the schools of the island, telling to kids. The festival itself is a several week long series of events, crowned by the last weekend full of storytelling all over the city, from early morning late into the night. This last three-day long extravaganza was the part that I (and a series of other storytellers from all around the world) got invited for.
Our personal headquarters for the weekend was the little café in the middle of the square. People sat out there at any given point during the day or the night. Although it was the middle of December, the weather was lovely. The locals frequently apologized to us for the cold, shivering in their coats - it was about 20 degrees Celsius (in the 60's Fahrenheit) the entire weekend. I, flying in from Freezingcold, OH, was thoroughly amused, and took all possible chances to sit outside and soak up the warm.
It was in the café on Friday that I was introduced to most of the guest storytellers of the festival. I already knew Ana Griott (her storytelling name; her real name is Ana Cristina Herreros), a lovely and elegant lady that in her spare time writes wonderful folktale collections in Spanish. I also knew Luís Correia Carmelo from Portugal from one of the FEST conferences, and I was happy to get to hear him again. I was introduced to Kamel Zouaoui, an Algerian-French storyteller who speaks a zillion languages and is very passionate about the art of storytelling; we were instantly best friends. I also met Arturo Abad, a young Canarian storyteller who lives in Granada and writes and tells wonderful tales of his own. Turns out he lived in Hungary for a month, and has a puli dog! Small world. I also got to know André Neves, a children's author and illustrator from Brazil, whose colorful and enchanting work was on display the whole weekend in the bookstore. Our little team was complete with a duo from Brazil named Tapetes contadores de historias together, and Warley Goulart and Rosana Reátegui respectively. We were joined by local storytellers such as the lovely Mar González Novell, Andrés Novoa, and Fabio González. There were many more storytellers around all weekend, but since we were scattered and very busy, I sadly didn't get to make friends with all of them. The ones I met and heard were all delightful.
The theme of the festival was the Ogre, which was represented by a large statue on the square (drawn by Fabio, who was an illustrator before he also started telling stories). It was supposed to symbolize the power of stories to present dark and scary things and help us learn to deal with them. The orge in question was not only delightfully ugly, but also very useful: One could climb in through its butt and emerge from its open maws onto the festival stage; alternately, they could also hold storytelling sessions by mysterious flashlight inside the ogre's belly. Of course kids could not get enough of it. The additional theme was recycling; in order to promote it, the square and all the venues were decorated with strings of lampions created by the kids and adults of the town from recycled materials and made to look like ghosts, little monsters, and other amusing shapes.
A lot happened during the three days of the festival weekend; parallel events took place from morning to evening. I'll describe some of them in the next post, with more pictures.

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