By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 21 March 2018)
Mara Mendiez is a passionate believer in the power of storytelling.
“What we need in this world is more storytellers,” the Edinburgh-based performing artist tells Business Daily during .her brief stop-over in Nairobi.
“Why?” she’s asked.
“Because stories allow us to tackle all sorts of taboo-ed topics without offending people personally,” says the storyteller whose pedigree in both Kenyan and British.
It’s not just that listening to stories allows people to let go of inhibitions and open up their minds, she says.
“Stories have a way of seeping into people’s souls and causing them to change the way they see and do things.”
Stories also enrich people’s sense of identity, continues this globe-trotting performer whose repertoire of stories come from Kenya and Scotland as well as from Africa and elsewhere.
For instance, she just came from Nigeria where she performed ‘The Illusion of Truth’ at the Lagos Theatre Festival. ‘The Illusion’ is a trilogy of tales, one Nigerian, one Kenyan and one Scottish, which she was meant to share last week at The Alchemist produced by Positively African. Sadly, the show was rained out.
Explaining how she got started performing professionally, Mara says she only began writing her first story while expecting the birth of her daughter Imani. She’d wanted to ensure her child felt connected to Kenya so she recalled a tale her Luhya grandmother had told her long ago.
After that, she self-published “The Chicken and the Eagle” and started performing it publicly to generate sales. But then, she discovered the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre and shortly thereafter started storytelling professionally.
Born in Kwale, Mara didn’t move to Scotland until she was 13. Up until then, she spent time listening to her beloved grandmother’s countless tales.
Right now, Mara’s busy building something she calls the Kwale Sculpture Park and Heritage Trail. It’s her dream to construct a cultural centre that can build on a tradition of storytelling and generate jobs for the community.
“In Scotland, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster generates millions from tourists intrigued by the monster story,” she says.
“We also have wonderful stories at the Coast,” she adds, noting how she recently started running workshops in her home village of Mbegani.
“Through the workshops we’re raising awareness of the people’s own cultural wealth in terms of their traditions and stories,” says Mara who envisages a ‘Loch Ness’ equivalent in Kwale that can appeal to legend-loving tourists as well.