Storytelling from a cross-cultural perspective

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Dastango Syed Sahil Agha during a performance.

What does Indian, Norwegian and Czech folklore have in common? A new Indian-Norwegian artistic collaboration is attempting to transgress borders with the help of a forgotten, Indian storytelling tradition.

Dastangoi is a minimalistic storytelling form that uses only voice and gesticulation in performance. Rarely heard of in western cultures, it now plays a key element in the Indian-Norwegian collaboration “STORIES [FROM], [TO] & [BY] FARAWAY LANDS”.

The project aims to promote the experience of oral folk tales and storytelling in different theatrical senses, and is inspired by Indian, Norwegian and Czech folklore. All of these three art forms are oral traditions based on local cultures that are mainly verbal and auditory in performance. The idea was initiated by the Norwegian director Bård Bjørknes and the Indian scenographer and architect Nitish Jain.

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 Bjørknes and Jain together with Dastango Syed Sahil Agha outside the Norwegian embassy.

Bjørknes and Jain have long experience with theatre and storytelling from their own countries as well as from the Czech Republic. They are now bringing Czech and Norwegian folk culture together with the Indian oral tradition Dastangoi. This tradition was first introduced to India from Persia in the 15th Century, but has been forgotten for hundreds of years before being revived again six centuries later by many artists in New Delhi. Dastangoi is based on narrating epics of adventure, magic and warfare.

The project’s main goal is to blur the boundaries and create a flux of stories, tradition and practices from different cultures. The project is supported by the Arts Council of Norway.

The Indian-Norwegian artistic project held a workshop at the Norwegian embassy from the 18th to 19th January. The workshop hosted the acclaimed Dastango Syed Sahil Agha, who presented the workshop attendees the history, form and style of the Dastangoi art form.