Atinuke's world of African folk: so different to us, so dear to her
Once upon a time . . .’ in the most generic of fashions, Atinuke, to a packed lecture theatre, began something remarkable.
Nigerian-born storyteller Atinuke Photo: Ian Taylor
A Nigerian-born storyteller used to ‘sleeping rough and singing for her supper’, Atinuke has long transfixed her audiences with her mesmerising blend of African folk tales.
However, the best way to describe her intoxicating performance at the Bishop’s Stortford College Festival of Literature would be to call it a transportation – a vibrant and hilarious painting of a world so different from our own and so dear to its creator.
Atinuke’s Africa was a place of evil stepmothers, singing bones and love-sick suitors. And, like a chameleon, she morphed into the characters she spoke of – becoming a chieftain, an entire school of children, a beast with 152 tails and, my personal highlight, an uncannily accurate talking lizard complete with flicking tongue.
Through voice, song and gesture, Atinuke literally brought her stories to life, mesmerising her audience in the process.
Most striking, however, were the references to our own modern lives within the fables and lore of the African bush. A chieftain’s daughter desperate for an iPod and a father convinced ‘Nokia was a disease’ provided charming yet potent reflections on the chasm between rainy Bishop’s Stortford and the sun-drenched simplicity of the African savannah.
Atinuke’s performance was a tornado of colour and charm, transcending age and time. From the eldest to the youngest members of the audience, there was nothing but wide eyes and mesmerised faces – through voice, colour and humour, Atinuke made us all children again.
Claire Devine, 17, from Little Hallingbury, is a sixth-form student at Bishop’s Stortford College.