Everyone loves to hear a good story, but it takes a skilled storyteller to be able to weave words together – whether based in fantasy or reality, or a mixture of both – to captivate audiences as well as inspire imagination.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, the Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival, better known as Gimistory, once again will entertain audiences young and old for two solid hours nightly – and it’s free.
Since its inception in 1998, Gimistory has been considered one of the best festivals of its kind, uniting generations and nationalities, both as performers and audience members, and attracting returning visitors year after year.
According to Henry Muttoo, artistic director at the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, storytelling has been a traditional cultural staple in Cayman. Stories were told wherever the necessity arose, whether was at home, on the porch, in the yard, in church or in schools.
“One of the many objectives of Gimistory is to help us reclaim what we have lost and retain what we now have,” Muttoo said. “In addition, CNCF understands the importance of the ‘other story’ in helping to completing ours.”
Whether an easy lighthearted tale or one broaching more serious and profound topics, the stories are a celebration of the art of communication.
“CNCF’s Gimistory is an event for all ages, taking us back to a time when people provided their own entertainment; a time when the imagination created images more colorful than any television screen and family and friends came together at dusk to share tall tales,” Lorna Bush, the festival’s organizer, said in a press release.
The gifted storytellers will be traveling to all six districts of Cayman to perform in the evenings in picturesque venues under the stars, from beaches to parks, and by day, making special presentations to students in 16 schools.
The sponsors of this year’s Gimistory include Cayman Airways, Harneys, Ministry of Education, Ministry of District Affairs, Tropicana Tours, the Holiday Inn, Carib Sands and the Ministry of Culture.
Among the local storytellers this year are Vinnie Rainwater, Jevaughnie Ebanks, Priscilla Pouchie and Matt Brown, and for the first time, Martin Keeley and Colin Wilson. Dexter Bodden, who will reprise his role as “the singing griot,” will be a regular feature on the full circuit this year, along with the others. A handful of youth storytellers, including Jevaughnie Ebanks, Kristina Lawrence, Victoria Buttrum, Dairilys Ebanks, Zariah Anglin, Olivia Zimmer, Dior Seymour, Tahiti Seymour and Layah Ebanks, will also perform their own show at the Dart Family Park amphitheater.
More than a dozen international performers will participate, including crowd favorites Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Ken Corsbie (at age 84, the oldest and most seasoned storyteller, having never missed a Gimistory to date), Edgar Ortiz, Lord Relator and Black Sage. They will delight audiences with tales from around the world, performing sweet kaiso (calypso) music and lively extempo – the art of composing songs on the spot, on any topic.
The international storytellers go through a vigorous audition process. “The teller must show, through their submissions, that he/she is a good performer, with good vocal skills; and be able to hold the attention of the audience, and tell, equally well, to all age groups in outdoor and indoor venues and at schools,” said Muttoo.
He adds that local tellers of previously proven talent and skills are pre-selected, and CNCF advertises for other locals, who then audition. CNCF runs a full-day storytelling workshop for the selected tellers, to assist them in their storytelling and performance technique.
Stories can be based on fact or fiction, and while there is some improvisation, it is mostly scripted material.
“If the teller is brilliant and has lots of experience improvising, as in the case of the extempore maestro Black Sage, we will allow it. The discipline is to be able to memorize a story and then perform it for the audience, using mainly the voice,” said Muttoo.
Fry fish and frittas will be available for purchase in small and large portions, as well as other local dishes in each and every district during evening performances. So grab a blanket and tuck into a hearty dinner under a canopy of stars and sea grape trees … and be prepared to be dazzled by this old-time, ageless form of entertainment.
For more information, visit www.artscayman.org/gimistory, email [email protected] or call 949-5477 for updates.
Who are some of the storytellers?
Trinidadian-born Lord Relator has been composing and singing calypso music since he was a young boy, regularly winning talent competitions on “The Auntie Kay Show” during the early ‘60s. He introduced a fresh, youthful image and style for this genre of music and was nicknamed the local Sammy Davis Jr. He is also an accomplished guitarist and devotes much of his time to children, making unpaid guest appearances at schools and preparing youngsters for national and inter-island competitions.
Phillip Murray, aka Black Sage, has a knack for drama in the delivery of his ditties, which he complements with theatrical performance. The calypsonian is a renowned master of extempo singing.
A prominent leading storyteller hailing from Jamaica, Amina Blackwood-Meeks is a cultural icon who writes and performs worldwide. Her entertaining stories have a social conscious bent, touching on politics, Caribbean culture or worldwide issues. She organized the first Caribbean storytelling festival in 1994 and teaches others the skills and ideas to continue the art form.
Anthony Gabby Carter
Also known as “The Mighty Gabby,” Anthony Gabby Carter is a vocal Pan-Africanist who is recognized for his satirical songs criticizing politicians and cultural trends. He has been writing and singing calypso music for more than 40 years and has written more than 1,100 songs; his music demonstrates his active social and cultural conscience. He was awarded the Living Legend Award at the first ever Barbados Music Awards in January 2006.
A veteran of theater in the Cayman Islands, Colin Wilson was the past president, actor, director, writer and stage manager of Cayman Drama Society. He has written and published many plays which have won him prizes in the CNCF playwriting competition. This is his first time on the Gimistory circuit.
Heavily involved in music from a young age when he would sing along to the records of Merle Haggard, Dexter Bodden performed in Minnesota and Nashville before returning to Cayman to make a name for himself mixing country and calypso to create his trademark style “Coca” music, thus, earning his nickname “The Calypso Cowboy.” He joins Gimistory for another year playing his songs and sharing his stories.
British-born Martin Keeley’s varied careers have taken him to East Africa, the Far East, Alaska and elsewhere around the world before he settled in Cayman Brac, where he has lived full-time since 1998. He has been a photojournalist, theater performer and director, international environmental activist, and for more than a decade he has served as education director for the Mangrove Action Project. He is also director of the Cayman Brac campus of UCCI. He is a published author and now a storyteller at Gimistory for the first time.
Gimistory storytelling schedule
- Sat. Nov. 29 – West Bay, Public Beach – 7 p.m.
- Mon. Dec. 1 – North Side, Capt. Ned Miller’s yard – 7 p.m.
- Tue. Dec. 2 – Cayman C
abana Oceanside Restobar, George Town – 7 p.m.
- Tue. Dec. 2 – Dart Family Park amphitheatre, South Sound (youth night) – 7 p.m.
- Wed. Dec. 3 – East End, Colliers Beach – 7 p.m. *
- Thu. Dec. 4 – Bodden Town, Nurse Josie’s senior center – 7 p.m.
- Fri. Dec. 5 – Little Cayman, Little Cayman School – 10 am.
- Fri. Dec. 5 – Cayman Brac Agriculture Grounds – 7 p.m.
- Sat. Dec. 6 – George Town, Smith’s Barcadere – 7 p.m.
* A free shuttle bus will be provided from East End Public Beach to Colliers Beach starting from 6:15 p.m. every 15 minutes, with the last bus leaving at 7 p.m.