Storytelling has given way to television, internet and computer games, yet since the beginning, it was the means by which information was passed on and by which all were engaged in a collective culture. This is the basis on which Pepperpot Productions will run an online story writing competition, beginning next month and ending December 7. The competition, which targets youths between the ages of 11 and 16 was inspired by Sapotee Soil (Derek Walcott/TTW Children’s Literature Prize winner) a short story collection, based on legends and legendary persons, places and things from Central to south Trinidad by Joanne Haynes. The competition is entitled, ‘Mwen ka voyajé asou tè sapotee: I am travelling the sapotee soil’.
Haynes said earlier this year she had been invited to chat with the girls of St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando about her book. “Some told me they had been to the Temple in the Sea but now they knew the story behind it they wanted to go back again, some told me they asked their mother about Mahal and she remembered seeing him walking and driving all over the place, others said they had never known about the Lady Mc Leod Bell and it was right across the promenade. I came home and started thinking about how to help them create their own sapotee stories and the answer I came up with is this competition.” Haynes said there is no theme to the competition, instead, young people can write on anything, a person, a place, an object—that is in the vicinity of where they live or go to school or drive/walk pass every day. “The idea behind this is what one might term cultural anthropology—it gives young people the opportunity to be creative, while taking a discerning look and listen into their environment. This is in keeping with the Pepperpot Productions focus of educating outside the classroom box.
“t leads itself to awakening and opening our young peoples’ minds to the things and people and places that we move around and with and through without always taking in; in bringing this awareness to the fore, we inject within our youths, a curiosity and excitement about our place and space.” The competition specifies that the information for the story must come from an oral source in an effort to help bridge generations by asking young people to talk with the elder generation about the people, places and things within their environment; in so doing, the competition seeks to build communication between generations. Haynes added that the competition sought to rejuvenate the traditions of orality and storytelling and to engage young people in the understanding of orality as a powerful tool of history and knowledge. “As we know, we hope that this competition will remind us of this powerful tool for building identity and self-worth. In keeping with this theme of celebrating the past, we have translated the title into patois and the web site itself hosts a story written in patois and translated into English, compliments of my dear friend Philip Nunez.” The stories do not have to be factual but instead can be history or who say.