Monday, July 27, 2015

13th Kea Folktale Festival, 2015

This year was not only my first time in Greece - it was also my first time at a Greek storytelling festival! I have been hearing about the magical island of Kea for years, and I was excited that I finally got to participate in their festival. It was a treat.
Our participation started on Wednesday evening, when we all gathered in the garden of the Mylopotamos museum of folklore and cultural heritage, in a nice small open-air theater. Storytelling started at 7pm; there were 21 storytellers in the lineup, with 10 minutes each. Together with the breaks where we drank wine and ate dinner, the program lasted until midnight, and in true Mediterranean fashion, we still had quite a big audience at the end. Apart from the international FEST participants, there were also Greek families, and tourists who happened to pass by. The acoustics of the theater left some things to be desired, especially because of the mixed background noise of cicadas, playing children, and a road. It was sometimes hard to hear the storytellers if they did not project at full capacity. Still, we experienced quite a few amazing performances.
Antonietta Pizzorno (above) told the tale of "A prince made by woman's hands" and while she mostly told in Italian, she conveyed the story really well, and left us in tears of laughter. Nuala Hayes told an Irish folktale in which the son of the King of Greece fell in love with the daughter of the King of Ireland - it was a great story, and very appropriate for the occasion. Susana Tornero told Stone Soup entirely in Sabir, the pidgin language of the medieval Mediterranean. We could all follow it, although it sounded like she was speaking Italian, Spanish and French at the same time (which, technically, she was). Regina Sommer told my favorite legend of Charlemagne, about the founding of Aachen. Senem Donatan, one of the Turkish ladies, told the myth of Inanna in the Underworld, with powerful singing. Seung Ah Kim, the Korean visitor, wore a traditional dress, and told the tale of the Snake Bridegroom with graceful gestures, eloquent words, and a haunting song.
As for me, I told a folktale collected from one of my favorite storytellers, Anna Pályuk, more than a hundred years ago. It is about three princesses who are half-siblings - one of them had a mother who was a fairy, one was a witch, and the third was a mortal. Their father, the king, tries to make them marry the Devil out of a mistake, and the three princesses work together to change his mind and fix the situation. It is a fun story to tell, the audience loved it, and it fit air-tight into the 10 minutes.
On Thursday, the festival moved to another location: We drove up to the town of Ioulida on the mountain, and prepared for a second story walk. The first stop was a fountain surrounded by fig trees and bushes; we sat on a flight of stairs, and listened to four stories. Three of them had to do with the sea; my favorite was Janneke Tanja (right), who told a haunting legend about a fisherman who ferries the souls of the dead across the sea. I had goosebumps all over. It was excellently crafted from a small bit of a local legend in the Netherlands.
The second site was a small alley, surrounded by the white walls and winding steps of the town. Once again we sat on stairs. We heard three storytellers, Jennifer, Marina, and Dafydd Davies Hughes (left), who told us a Welsh version of the myth of King Midas. Once again, bonus points for the choice of story. It is always interesting to see how far certain motifs have traveled over the centuries.
The third and final stop on the walk was an open air theater in a grove, under the stars and below the old stone walls of the town. The performance was a treat: Abbi Patrix (France) presented a full show of smart animal tales, spiced with African proverbs and percussion music by Linda Edsjö.
The festival continues on over the weekend, and I am a little sad that I didn't stay longer (although the performances seem to be in Greek from this point on). Kea is a lovely place, very calm and beautiful, and the festival was an amazing blend of mythical landscape and good storytelling. I am glad I made the trip, and I hope I will get to return in the future!

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