Toddler reading

Life In Lockdown: People turned to stories to make sense of what’s happening

It’s been over 100 days since the coronavirus outbreak forced South Africans into a lockdown. A truly global event, it sent a third of the world’s population indoors, many working from home and nowhere to go. It is the arts and the stories that they turned to for comfort, entertainment and often to make sense of what’s happening.

Pope Francis must have had a premonition because he spoke on the art of storytelling at an event to mark the 54th World Communications Day in January. He said, “Stories influence our lives, whether in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news, even if we do not always realise it. Stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behaviour.”

Amid the pandemic, as families across South Africa found sanctuary within the physical boundaries of their homes, children and adults alike retreated to the familiar world of books.

“The pandemic with its social distancing and disengagement has changed the way many of us relate to the world around us,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, South African Book Development Council.

“If you look around, you are participating in history. Decades from now, the stories from today will be key to understanding this epochal moment.”

One area where the South African Book Development Council has focused on during the pandemic is online storytelling, tapping into the power of stories to help parents and children cope with anxiety and foster a sense of belonging by building a virtual community.

Books Beyond Words, the weekly event hosted by South Africa’s annual reading awareness week, National Book Week (NBW), dedicated to encouraging leisure reading and promoting the importance of books has been inviting storytellers every weekend, uninterrupted, since the lockdown began in March, for a live event to tell children an interesting story. NBW is a joint initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) and The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.

This weekend will see a duo of powerhouse performers, Raquel Munn and Thembile Tshuma, who have excelled in every sphere of performing arts transition to online storytelling, bringing their rich theatre experience to formulate the narrative and knitting words into a story.

The episode will see Munn recounting the ageless Ugly Duckling story and Tshuma telling the children about the Greedy Baboon. 

Join us again this Saturday 11 July 2020 at 11:00am on NBW’s Facebook page for another weekend of lockdown fables.

“When the lockdown is lifted and stories are written about this time, I hope human triumph is woven into the plot. The hard work of our storytellers and their tenacity, the word of the authors and their talent must be recognised. For it is they who brought hope and comfort into homes”, says van der Sandt in conclusion.

Books Beyond Words 11 July 2020

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