How do we know human life existed thousands of years ago? An obvious answer would be history. Stories have been told and retold by kings, queens and common man alike. They have been a significant part of man’s life on earth. It would be no exaggeration to say that storytelling is as old as human civilisation. Stories about war, conquest, exploration, love, loss and life have decorated the pages of history like stone sculptures on the walls of caves and temples. We all have stories to tell and have been storytellers at some point in our lives. But what it takes to be a master storyteller has been explored little. In an email interview, Singapore-based storyteller and writer Rosemarie Somaiah talks about the subtleties of the art of storytelling and what it takes to be a storyteller.
Can you describe the art of storytelling?
The art of storytelling is one of the most natural, intuitive human skills. It is about one person making a connection with another through the offering of a story.
Can you tell us about the origins of storytelling?
I am neither a scientist nor an academic to say for sure, but there is sufficient research that shows the human brain is hardwired for a story. It is how we process the world around us to make sense of it all. We then share this gift of story with the ones we love or live with, to enable them to get through the complexities of life. So, while researchers may consider whether it began with cave drawings and pictures, or gestures, grunts, growls, words or languages thousands of years ago, the main purpose of telling stories is to derive meaning from what we experience in life and pass it on.
As a storyteller, what do you experience when telling a story?
When telling a story, I am sharing a part of who I am–my hopes, my dreams, my fears and my truth–with the audience. However, this act of intimacy is balanced by the fact that a story or a narrative is an efficient tool to carry a multitude of facts, opinions and perspectives. However, one must understand the difference between fact and fiction, truth and story.
“What I am really interested in are the quiet, untold stories shared by people who don’t realise how important their stories are.”