The group that I facilitated during my YNCD was comprised of youth from the Baphumelele Fountain of Hope program, which provides orphaned youth of the Cape between the ages of 18-21 with a safe and nurturing environment to transition positively towards adulthood. I could not have had a more perfect group for the work that we did on this day.
The intention of the day was to connect them with their own heroic narrative, through acknowledging that they were both the authors and heroes of their own life story; and to guide them towards finding a sense of purpose as they approach entering the adult world.
I was amazed at the ease and eagerness with which the youth embraced what we were doing, each being given a notebook in which to draw and write as we went along. It was also very clear that this healing work was not limited only to the youth, when Noah (their project manager), as well as a German volunteer that was also assisting in their organisation, also interactively engaged in the activities presented.
The spirit of community that is so inherent in the art of storytelling came through very strongly from the very outset when we sat down and discussed our strengths amongst one another before each claiming an epithet (a descriptive title or add-on) to create our Heroic Identities. Some of the youth were quick to name one of their strengths, while some of the others soon chose one after being provided with insight from their peers who shared with them some of the traits that they had witnessed and admired during their time spent together.
Things went a little bit deeper when we took some time for silence and reflection into our personal “monsters”, those internal or external concerns which challenge and limit us in achieving our full potential as heroes authoring our own life story. It became clear that some of the youth were deeply affected by this process of self-reflection, yet thereafter followed a sense of exuberant liberation once they had the opportunity to give their monsters a face by drawing it in their journals, and we banished each of them in circle by doing a simple dance movement representing each monster during a fun song in which we chased them away.
Hereafter we moved towards a direct engagement with the mountains and the mineral element by doing a walk along the mountain-side, and I was to learn the lesson of how important it is to maintain the ritual space when I led the group along a busy road with the intention of going higher up the mountain. The activity and bustle of the road-side disrupted the beautiful space that we had just created, and I lost control for a little bit allowing some chaos to creep in. Things, however, began to come together again when we started moving back down along the mountainside in a circular route, and disengaged from the chaos of the road-side.
During this time I encouraged the youth to engage on a sensory level with the nature all around us, and they each got to pick a Power Stone, a crystal representing their personal gifts that they carry within, as well as collecting a stone from the mountainside which was to represent the gifts that they received from nature and their ancestors to assist in their heroic quest. Here I learned a lesson once again about my own redundant need for the “perfect” natural setting, as even this lower slope of the mountain which was also inhabited by some homeless people proved to touch the youth; and during their sit-spots I could feel that they had connected with the spirit of the natural space by dropping down and integrating the mountain’s gifts after making offerings and asking the mountain’s blessing in fulfilling their individual stories. My mentor, Mbali Marais, then placed a blessing upon each youth’s stones as well.
We then headed to a hall where, after lunch, we began the creative work of each youth crafting their Dream Necklace through combining their stones, which they could now wear as a symbol of their heroic identity.
It was a beautiful scene when each youth thereafter shared their story based on the notes in their journal while wearing their items of power and thereby declaring themselves as the heroes’ of their own lives’ narrative.
I feel inspired to keep doing this kind of work with not only the youth, but also sharing this with my greater community. I embrace the call of my own heroic narrative to tell the stories of our people and to create a platform where communities can come together and share their stories with one another.
I am still formulating the exact manner that this will come to pass, but I trust that as I align my actions and intentions with this goal, I will be open to any opportunities that life will send my way.
I am currently cultivating the humility that is necessary to live a life in service of my community and our rich heritage.
It is time for me to let go the mantle of ego that so often separates me from my roots, and don the cloak of the wandering storyteller. I am ready to swallow my pride, so that there is space in my throat for the voice of the land and the people itself to come singing through.