Mara Menzies’ eyes were full of vibrant expression as she narrated her colorful folktales at the “Kenyan and Scottish songs and stories” workshop at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Known as an international storyteller, she regularly performs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as all over the world. Her ethnicity is half Kenyan and half Scottish, so she has accumulated stories from her own two cultures, both of which are robust in ancient myths and legends.
Living in a digital era saturated with smartphones and Facebook, Menzie successfully manages to bring back something uniquely magical and cultural that no downloadable app in the world can re-create; the true art of storytelling. For an hour, the children were fully immersed in mystical exotic lands. She told a highly entertaining Kenyan tale about a jealous, petulant sun who steals the moon’s iridescent rainbow colors, leaving the moon stripped bare and plain with a broken spirit . Not one to accept his miserable fate, the moon decides to go on an adventurous quest to regain his vibrant hues once more. After travelling far and wide, he realizes that it is in fact his brother, the sun who is the perpetrator and what ensues next is an exciting cat and mouse chase all over the universe to reclaim ownership over those precious, sparkling beams of colors.
Another story had a more appeal was about a beautiful, long haired exotic maiden who lived on a fisherman’s village as a wife to a native. In the end, Menzie reveals the lady is actually a selkie (mermaid) who has been under a spell, keeping her captive on land against her will for decades. She eventually returns to the sea and the story had a very mysterious ending, lending an air of Hans-Christian-Anderson poignancy.
Menzie consistently involved the children whilst telling the story by making them answer questions, repeat key phrases and even sing at times! She used colorful scarves as props which were to depict crashing waves at sea. She did this by moving them around theatrically and she even transformed the scarves into colorful wings of an exotic bird in a jungle. These techniques really help to set a scene and encourage the children to lose themselves from reality and use their imaginations.