Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tribal Storytelling

My friend Raj a.k.a. Capt. T. Rajkumar in Chennai, may his tribe increase, likes to tell about "tribal storytellers", who I believe were somewhat akin to our own "penglipur lara" of old. He quotes from a 1989 book by Max DePree, 'Leadership Is an Art', on the subject:

"Dr. Carl Frost, a good friend and adviser to our company, tells a story of his experience in Nigeria during the late sixties.

Electricity had just been brought into the village where he and his family were living. Each family got a single light in its hut. A real sign of progress. The trouble was that at the night, though they had nothing to read and many of them did not know how to read, the families would sit in their huts in awe of this wonderful symbol of technology.

The light-bulb watching began to replace the customary gatherings by the tribal fire, where the tribal storytellers, the elders, would pass along the history of the tribe. The tribe was losing its history in the light of a few electric bulbs. This story helps to illustrate the difference between scientific management and tribal leadership. Every family, every college, every corporation, every institution needs tribal storytellers. The penalty for failing to listen is to lose one’s historical context, one’s binding values. Like the Nigerian tribe, without the continuity brought by custom, any group of people will begin to forget who they are.

In a difficult and fractured and complex world, in problems of failure and stories of success, but especially in the joys and tragedies of our personal lives, we touch each other. This “touching” is at the heart of who we are.

Tribal storytellers, the tribe’s elders, must insistently work at the process of renewal and preserve and revitalise the value of the tribe."

Many of us bloggers have for the most part become modern day tribal story tellers of sorts. This is especially now that the mainstream media people have begun to lose their credibility, sound like broken records or whatever.

Me? I am just a tribal shit stirrer ...


  1. Good morning captain,

    I love storyteller any given time.

    This is my favourite posting from you.

  2. elviza:

    Thank you my dear. I got the idea from you actually. Yr storytelling to little children at Borders is most exemplary. Do keep it up.

  3. Bang Cap't(Hon. Tribal shit-stirrer Esq.),

    As bloggers, I guess we've become "modern day tribal storytellers".. replete with bad language, innuendoes, half-truths and outright lies! Ha-ha - that's what the GahMen wants others to believe...

    Interesting what socio-anthrophologist down the road, eons from now, will make of it, ya Bang? Internet bloggers, I mean.

    Or are we all just plain 'ol "shit stirrers" to begin with? Only the internet has made shit-stirring easier?

  4. Hi Mat,

    Depends which side you're on. I actually get political and stir shit only when I'm angry, which isnt very often these days ...(sigh).. Takes a lot to make me really mad.

    But there are people who make a living out this and are called hacks or spin doctors or whatever. Free country.. eh wot?

  5. YA, without the story teller life will be boring and like a horse with the blinker.

    I am wondering now, should I start writing my "Tales from the Sea" to capture my prime age story wondering the seven seas!!!

  6. jaf,

    You certainly should while yr faculties are still intact ... haha


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