Old Stories in New Ways

Stories create our meanings -- they connect us, within families, within cultures, as well as across our many differences. In a fast changing world, with advantages and disadvantages of the digital age upon us, cultural and social transformation is inevitable. This project will preserve, sustain and transform the ways story provides foundational cultural power for local communities as they join the global community. 

Using resonant traditional and contemporary stories, an interdisciplinary research and artist team from the University of Alberta and Kenya will collaborate to tap the powers of story and performance to contribute to timely social intervention, by adapting Old Stories in New Ways. The issues are urgent. In Kenya, urbanization, technology, health risks, environmental degradation, economic challenges, nationalism and tribalism are challenging and transforming societies that were built on powerful traditions of cultural homogeneity and stability. Throughout Kenya, youth from 28 language groups flock to cities and embrace the internet and global pop culture. Times are exciting and perilous. As Aga Khan University partner, Dr. Alex Awiti says, “we are working on…issues that we think are fundamentally shaping the present and will determine the future of communities and the country.”  

A team of researchers, artists and community members will build two model projects, aiming to transform while preserving powerful (and empowering) stories. Theory will inform practice, and practice will in turn challenge and inform theory in this action-oriented creative research program that will impact a particular set of communities while creating and testing transferable models for using the performed story in processes of change. 

(Cover image: Lagnet Theatre performs in Ahero Kenya)


Jan Selman

2015 Cluster Grant

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