Spreading Love with Stories

Sunday, November 10th, 2019, was a fun day for the children of Nyanggit hamlet in Rembitan village, Central Lombok. How could it not be? After its residents all came together to clean the village, the boys of the village then bathed together in one of the nearby springs, called Mertak Tune. These two activities brought out the natural playfulness of the children with them joking and laughing together. After the children were clean the fun continued with a game of marbles. This age-old game is still played frequently by the children of Nyanggit.

That day was made even more special for the children due to a visit from the travelling community storytellers (Doing) from Solo, Central Java. This activity is a joint collaboration between Titian Foundation and the Women’s Reading Club (KBP). The group not only did a story-reading session with the children of Nyanggit, but also held a workshop on storytelling for the mothers. The group has conducted storytelling activities in several areas in North Lombok regency before. The group members are volunteers to this cause, devoting time, energy, thought, and even covering their own expenses for children and mothers of Lombok.

The children were very enthusiastic about participating in this storytelling session because they had never experienced it before. They were also amazed by how the storytellers can think up the stories so well and make them so enjoyable. A total of three stories were read. The tales told by the group facilitators were very persuasive with a lot of moral messages. For example, getting the children to protect the environment by putting trash into the dumpster and also to share and care for each other. They told their stories with lots of enthusiasm and creativity. In one fable of a monkey named Moli, one facilitator played the role of Moli, mimicking the sound and movements of a monkey just like a real one. The hilarious performance of the storytellers had the children bursting into laughter, obviously very entertained. The children were also invited to sing along and imitate song movements in between the stories. The songs were simple and related to the message or meaning of the story being told. One such song lyric was:

“When you see trash, you take, you throw it away … to where? … to the garbage bin”

After having fun with the children, the storytellers gave a storytelling workshop to the mothers. The storytellers shared knowledge about the types of tales, such as fairytales, fables, legends, folklore, etc. They were also introduced to simple storytelling techniques using simple props; hand puppets, and sticks as well as the types of intonation reflecting the character being played, facial expressions, body gestures, movements and songs. The storytellers also stressed the benefit of storytelling in the development of children’s imagination and thinking ability. Likewise, children are more receptive to moral messages or good values learned from stories so that, hopefully, these will be adopted in their daily lives ultimately developing their good character.

In addition to providing materials about storytelling, the mothers were given the chance to practice the techniques learned from the workshop. When the storytellers asked the mothers to practice storytelling, there was one elderly woman in the village of Nyanggit who then came forward and told a story using the Sasak language. It turns out she is very good at storytelling and knows a lot of Lombok folklore. She always reiterated Lombok folklore to her children when they were young, either before going to bed or in their free time. Unfortunately, the habit of storytelling is no longer practiced by younger generations. Mothers who took part in the workshop, for example – who are currently in their 30s and 40s – almost never tell stories to their children.

The habit of storytelling is an expression of the culture that needs to be preserved. The session with these storytellers brings enthusiasm and enlightenment about the importance of storytelling and the benefits of telling tales to children. It turns out that the practice of storytelling of these volunteer storytellers is a manifestation of their belief about “Spreading love with stories”. Titian wishes continuous success for these storytellers, hopefully the knowledge and enthusiasm brought to Nyanggit village can be replicated and implemented so as it can bring about positive change and at the same time preserve the expression of the culture. (TA)