I pay my respect to the !xun San elders, past and present,
who are the traditional custodians
of many of the stories I work with.
Two of my books below, Kapilolo’s Kulimatji and !nanni’s Sketchbook, are based on a single question: how do we heal and reconstruct our broken stories?
Both books are historical reconstructions of the lives of two Angolan !xun storytellers, !nanni and Kapilolo, set apart in time by two centuries. The stories examine how the lives of these two marginalised storytellers were misrepresented by others and how their narratives, paintings, drawings and music helped them to heal from the post traumatic effects of slavery and the aftermath of a long war.
My contemporary !xun colleagues use the word ‘healing’ instead of ‘therapy’, because the traditional healing arts involve a wide range of preventative rituals and practices, where healing and well-being is not always problem-saturated.
Paying close attention to our personal stories is not narcissism. It is the act of paying close attention to ourselves and our world. Such witness is an act of dignity, an act of recognising that life is essentially a sacred transaction of which we know the shadow, not the shape. Attuning ourselves to the value of our stories means becoming a faithful, conscious witness to our own lives. We become better witnesses of other people’s lives in the process.
Healing through the narrative arts also involves making visual expressions of our stories as a starting point for exploring events and emotions that are hard to express in words. Trauma or repressed emotions can silence people. Narrative Arts Therapy works against this form of silencing and helps people to bring their stories to the surface so that they may understand it better. The techniques we use help people to construct stronger stories.
My work as a doctor of the narrative arts, involves helping people to reconstruct their personal narratives into stronger stories that support their health and wellbeing. I do this during a 10-part narrative arts therapy programme, shaped by my own and other authors’ work. This course is supported by local and international scientific research and finely tuned by hundreds of participants, artists, therapists and traditional healers I have worked with during the past 25 years.
My private practice is based in Kalk Bay, Cape Town. To book an appointment for face to face or online sessions, call +27 (0) 83 3925153, 0r send me an email.
The Dulwich Centre in Australia has been working with Aboriginal communities for many years and offers good resources for exploring what the narrative arts can do in their context: Please explore their website at: www.dulwichcentre.com.au. The following is an extract from their site:
Narrative Therapy seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counselling and
community work, which centres people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes that people have many skills, competencies, beliefs,
values, and commitments that will assist them in reducing the problem in their lives.
!nanni’s Sketchbook – annotations of loss and abundance, celebrates a 19th century collection of children’s drawings and paintings made by the Namibian !kun child, !nanni and his three friends, Tamme, |uma and Da. This book illuminates their work, reconstructs the story of where they came from, how they were abducted and ended up in the Cape colonial home of linguist Lucy Lloyd – where they made the collection with her. The !kun children’s archive is part of the larger Bleek and Lloyd Collection – entered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This book brings to an end the marginilised voices of the chidlren in the famous collection.
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In this remarkable book, Kapilolo’s Kulimatji – a !xun San storyteller’s memoir, Kapilolo Mario Mahongo recounts for the first time from an indigenous perspective, the heart-rending results for his family and San compatriots of their involvement in the independence wars against Portugal and South Africa in Angola and Namibia. Mahongo is one of the unsung heroes amongst indigenous San in southern Africa as they continue the struggle to survive and retain their identity, culture and languages far from the place of their birth.
Kapilolo’s Kulimatji – a !xun San storyteller’s memoir, told to narrative practitioner and editor, Dr Marlene Sullivan Winberg, between 1994 and 2017 and accompanied by her own account of the circumstances that led to her 23-year friendship with Mahongo, is an emotionally charged book and a welcome new genre for southern African indigenous literature. Dr Janette Deacon.
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Text by Marlene Winberg
Photographs by Paul Weinberg
With an introductory essay by Achmat Dangor
In 1994, people began to return to land in rural South Africa they had lost under apartheid. This book chronicles that process and other related aspects of the South African government’s land reform programme between 1994 and 1996. It allows the voices of the marginalised people to be heard beyond their own communities.
The Storyteller is a collection of folktales from the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango River villages in Botswana. It was made when groups of young storytellers gathered in D’Kar and Shakawe to perform and record their family stories. Twenty-three tales were written in Naro, Khwedam, ||Anikhwedam, Ju|’hoansi, Thimbukushu, Otjiherero, ShiYei and English.
This collection is a reflection of a changing oral tradition where cultures meet and integrate; where computer technology exists alongside traditional healing, where people work in their small offices and libraries in the desert, quietly creating their own educational futures. It testifies to a younger generation’s capacity to record, write and translate their elders’ oral traditions.
This little book, enhanced by the work of the San artists at the Kuru Art Project in the Kalahari, honours the Botswana tradition of storytelling and the diversity of its language heritage.
A fertility story narrated by traditional !xun healer Meneputo Manunga Manyeka. Translated by Marlene Winberg. Accompanied by !xun music.
This story narrates the birth of a traditional San healer. Translated by Marlene Winberg. Accompanied by !xun music..