The Konkomba folktale’s performance aesthetics

The performance of the Konkomba folktale adheres to traditions and standards which may vary slightly from story teller to story teller but make the performances recognisable as belonging together.

The Konkomba folktales are stories which blend the genres of prose, drama, and sometimes poetry. They contain fictitious contents that depict implausible actions and are set to be both time- and placeless. What happens in these stories is often hard to believe from the first time they are told and then get embellished over time. The folktales change most every time the are told due to this.

Something that is very characteristic for the performance of Konkomba folktales is that while the stories have condusive atmospheres that demand the audiences attention and often interaction, it – or rather the story-teller – ask for permission to begin.
As mentioned above, the performances often become interactive. Thus the story-teller may ask the audience questions such as „How would you decide?“, or intone a song.

Typical for Konkomba folktale performances is also the timeless and unchanging characterisation of animals and the giving of own distinctive voices. Reoccuring animals are for example the rabbit and the hyena.
Whereas the rabbit is characterised as smart and performed with a speech impediment that is intended to make the audience laugh, the hyena is gullible. The performance includes impatien gestures and a deep voice.

The folktales end one oft wo ways: they either conclude with a moral lesson (You should love all your children equally) or with a „This is why… (The wasp has a tiny waist). Then the story-teller will „sign off“. The sign off usually is one of a few sentences which vary by gender and choice oft he speaker. The sign off is important because it signals that the next person may start their story. If a story-teller ever forgets to sign off they will be reminded by the audience.

These are some the characteristics that build the aesthetics of the Konkomba folktale performance. Which of these, if any, do you recognise from your own culture’s stories?

Jule Wolters

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