The Original Art by Elise M. Edwards
Storytelling is the original art as the desire to communicate is a common thread of all the other arts. I started reflecting on the stories – through various mediums–that have shaped me, and I wanted to use my post today to honor the herstories, the narratives of the women that have been meaningful to me.
On Tuesday night, I attended a gathering of storytellers. I sat with two of my friends and listened to professionals and amateurs alike share stories. The stories they told presented a range of narratives from Danish folktales to improvised children’s stories. I was both horrified and enchanted by the content of their works. While one story was a particularly violent tale of retribution and “justice,” another seemed to offer lessons about cooperation.
I thought about sharing a story of my own, but I didn’t feel prepared. By the end of the evening, I was aware of the irony of my reluctance to share. I was afraid I was not a good enough storyteller, yet I’d spent a good part of the previous two weeks traveling and catching up with old and new friends, which certainly involved animated retellings of the events going on in my life.
I recognized this contradiction after the storytellers finished sharing, when my friends and I chatted with a few of them over snacks and lemonade. They welcomed us as newcomers and encouraged us to share at the next meeting. When my friend Elizabeth told an older man that she could not be as creative at storytelling is he was (he narrated a delightful story about mice preventing an armed attack), he admonished her to never say such a thing again. “We all have the ability to tell stories,” he said. “It only takes a little practice to get good at it.”
Another storyteller enthusiastically proclaimed storytelling as the original art, claiming that the desire to communicate is a common thread of all the other arts. In this blog, I often write about art, but I haven’t yet written specifically about storytelling. So this remark prompted me to reflect on the stories – through various mediums–that have shaped me, and I wanted to use my post today to honor the herstories, the narratives of the women that have been meaningful to me. Here are a few that have nurtured my spirit (in no particular order):
- Those who have shared on this blog as contributors and commenters, particularly as it involves navigating a life of faith. A few of the many that touched me were written by Yvonne Augustine, Gina Messina-Dysert, and Monica A. Coleman.
- Stories about my grandmothers. Thankfully, I have relatives who share stories about these loving, smart, and strong ladies even though they have passed. The stories remind me of the many things I can be and the many things I don’t have to be.
- Song of Songs. Years ago, I read Renita J. Weems’ What Matters Most: Ten Lessons in Living Passionately from the Song of Solomon. Although I had rejected the idea that Song of Songs is an allegory for God’s love, it wasn’t until I read Weems’ book that I appreciated the passionate voice of the song’s female storyteller.
- The dance from Revelations by Alvin Ailey set to “Wade in the Water.” This piece may have been choreographed by a man, but the women are so powerful and prominent in the dance’s storytelling that I think of it as herstory. It gave me chills when I saw it perform.
- Some music with soul: Pretty much any hit by Mary J. Blige – My Life, No More Drama, Be Happy, Just Fine, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, an album that deals with Hill’s pregnancy, the turmoil in her musical group the Fugees, themes of love, and God.
This is just the beginning of a long list. I’d love to know what stories are meaningful to you. Post them in the comments. Keep sharing your stories, fellow feminists, and inspire the rest of us to share, too.
Elise M. Edwards is a Ph.D. candidate in Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Claremont Graduate University and registered architect in the State of Florida. She does interdisciplinary work in the fields of theology, ethics, and aesthetics, examining issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.