John Njuguna Guchacha, “Take my hand and live
art by John Njuguna Guchacha,

will have trees,
we must plant them

If we research communal traits like bravery, self-restraint or hospitality, we might find the seeds of those traits in the diet of folktales on which the community was raised. Those stories, shared in childhood, germinate into grown up values that replicate themselves everywhere the folktales are retold. As those tales are translated and adapted, those positive traits cross borders; they become regional, even continental.

Our folktales are still seed, but they are no longer sown in the hearing of our children. Today they are often artefacts in our museum of stories. Yet, the minds of our children are still fertile land, and if they do not find the seed of value-driven folktales, they will grow other more philistine values for the Frankenstein societies of the future.

That is where you come in, dear Storyteller. You have been called to the frontline of the battle for that future. Your challenge is to reimagine a folktale for today’s child – for your son or daughter, niece or nephew – such that they can enjoy tales rooted in their times. This is no mean task, as every adult who has ever been importuned by a child for a story knows. It takes a certain kind of genius to take characters and conflicts from everyday life and tell a tale so indelible that a mother recalls it from her childhood in time to tell her own children. This is not simply a matter of giving the cunning tortoise a mobile phone or giving Anansi the spider an email address. It is not just a matter of transplanting the old tales from village to city. Perhaps it is more about weaving conflicts confronting modern children – along with wise resolutions – into the fabric of a brand new tale that excites even the parents sharing it with their children.

Your challenge is to write a story that will help parents win their children’s attention from television. A tale that will leap from the pages of a book into the oral traditions of communities, so that future generations will contest its ownership much like Jollof rice is contested today – until some researcher discovers how YOU first submitted that story here:  on  the moonlit midnight of 20th May, 2016, and it started its journey into the hearts of a generation of children.

Go on and click, dear Storyteller. The future is waiting on you.

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