Buenaventura celebrates oral traditions.
“The first step to becoming a storyteller is to listen,” says Nicolás Buenaventura, a Colombian script-writer, film director, and actor. Celebrated internationally for creating performances based on myths and stories from Latin America, India, and Africa, Buenaventura brought his international experiences to Sackville last week with a performance of Maestra Palabra, or “Master Word.”
Buenaventura is an expert in the art of oral storytelling. Although based on his own publications and collected stories from many languages around the world, the performance retained an improvisational element that is central to oral expression. In addition to his passionate manner of speaking, Buenaventura also used a few unique instruments to enhance the storytelling. For example, in a story about two frogs, he used a jaw harp to make a “boing” sound, like frogs hopping along. Other instruments, like singing bowls, were used to create different sound effects and moods to accompany the stories.
Buenaventura emphasized the importance of music as a method of communication and as a language in itself. “Before language, there was music,” he said during the question period following his performance.
The last section of Thursday’s performance, a story from Mi’kmaq oral tradition, was spoken entirely in Spanish with a brief introduction in French. Buenaventura used a singing bowl and other nonverbal cues that conveyed the melancholic yet serene emotional context of the story.
Overall, the performance was beautiful, engaging, and eye-opening. Because Buenaventura has explored a wide diversity of languages and cultures, his method of storytelling is a powerful way of relaying these experiences. By sharing and telling stories from different cultures, writers like Buenaventura spark discourse about oral traditions and cultural memory.
Presented by Mount Allison’s Department of Modern Languages, the performances catered to speakers of two different languages: the performance on Thursday, Oct. 16 was done almost entirely in French with a section of Spanish at the end, and Friday’s performance was entirely in Spanish.