Iran picks 21 overseas narrators for Intl. Storytelling Festival 

November 9, 2021 - 18:45

TEHRAN – Twenty-one storytellers from across the world have been selected to perform during the 23rd edition of Iran’s International Storytelling Festival, which is scheduled to be held online due to the pandemic.

Among the overseas participants are six storytellers from India including Usha Venkatraman, a Mumbai-based award-winning narrator who has performed at many international and Indian festivals, the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA - Kanoon), the organizer of the festival, announced on Monday. 

She has also held numerous workshops at schools across India, Malaysia and Singapore.

Devaki Bhujang Gajare, Meher Gehi, Niyati Vaidya Mehta, Shalini Bajaj and Hema Subramanian are other Indian storytellers who will give performances at the festival.

Nor Azhar Ishak from Malaysia, a science museum educator and award-winning picture book writer and illustrator, is also among the storytellers. He has won the consolation prize in the DBP Picture Book Award 2013, and the YGL-Oyez! Picture Book Award. 

Shayna Jones, another world-renowned storyteller who specializes in African folk tales, will participate in the festival. She has performed for audiences across Canada. She combines her passion for live performance with an in-depth study of Afro-centric folk history. 

The Filipino-Canadian storyteller Veronica Antipolo will also give a performance at the event. She is the co-founder of Mosaic Untold Lives, a storytelling platform. She has performed for the CBC Glenn Gould Studio.

Paola Balbi, the founder and co-artistic director of Raccontamiunastoria Storytelling Company, an industry leader in Italy, and the Storytelling Company, the first performing storytelling company in the UAE, will also attend the festival.

Marcela Sabio from Argentina, Beatriz Quintana Valle from Cuba, Raquel Lopez Cascales from Spain, Ruben Corbett from Mexico, Baeletsi Tsatsi from South Africa, Argin Kubin from Turkey, Ahmad Rashedi from Oman, Raida Guermazi from Tunisia, Boniface Ofogo from Cameroon, Haytham Shokry from Egypt and Patrick Mohr from Switzerland will entertain audiences during the festival with their performances.

The storytellers have been selected from among 150 applicants by an expert committee composed of Ehsan Rezai, Azam Qasemi Falavarjani and Bahareh Jahandoost.

The storytellers will be competing with 19 narrators from Iran including Kimia Gudarzi, Farzaneh Sadeqi, Mehdi Mohammadian and Behnaz Mahdikhah. 

The final session of the festival will be held on Yalda Night, which falls on December 21 this year, the last day of autumn, the evening of which is celebrated by Iranians as the ancient tradition. Storytelling by parents and grandparents is a key element of the celebration.

Yalda Night is considered the longest night of the year when the ancient Iranians celebrated the birth of Mithra, the goddess of light. It is also known as Chelleh Night, which alludes to the first 40 days of winter, considered to be the harshest of the season.

People on this night are usually served with fresh fruits and a mixture of dry fruits, seeds and nuts in floral bowls.

Following a hot dinner, many people often recite poetry, narrate stories, chant, play musical instruments or just chat cozily until midnight or so. 

Photo: A poster for the 23rd International Storytelling Festival.


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