The St. John’s Local Immigration Partnership and the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL) have teamed up to launch a new project called Tales From Afar: Old Stories from New Residents.
The project is seeking people who have recently made St. John’s their home to share traditional folktales and legends which will be compiled into a printed booklet and online resource.
“We’re in the very early days of the project, we’re just beginning to get the word out that we’re looking for stories, but we’ve already had good responses,” said Dale Jarvis, HFNL’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer. “There’s going to be a large breadth of stories.”
Jarvis said his team has already had people from China, Croatia, Iran, Germany, France, and New York State come forward to share their stories.
However, they are hoping to include even more voices in the project, they would like to hear from “newcomers in the truest sense of the word – recent refugees, temporary foreign workers, international students, newly arrived professionals or economic migrants or … well-established immigrants who have long since made St. John’s their home.”
Jarvis says the organizers are reaching out to several community groups to discuss ways to overcome language barriers. He says his team will find a way to communicate with anyone who wants to share a story, and work with the contributor to translate it.
Jarvis also says potential participants shouldn’t feel they have to have a polished, perfectly remembered story to be part of the project, his team is happy to help people edit their tales for the final booklet.
“If people half remember a story they shouldn’t hesitate to contact us to share it, we can work with them,” Jarvis said. “People can contribute stories in whatever way is most comfortable for them; they can write it down and email it or we can come to them and they can tell it to us in their kitchen and we’ll do the writing.”
The organizers are looking for legends and folktales, the type of stories that are passed down through generations, but they are also interested in the type of stories that teenagers tell each other; urban legends, tall tales and ghost stories. As well as religious stories, the kind that involve saints or miracles.
“Having a formal booklet at the end kind of lifts up the discourse around these stories, they’re not just children’s stories, they’re not just stories people tell in the kitchen, they have a cultural value,” Jarvis said.
HFNL have done several projects where they ask members of a particular community to share stories, which the staff collates into a printed and digital booklet. Most recently the HFNL team visited New Perlican to collect stories about the goats of New Perlican. Jarvis explained that Tales From Afar uses a similar model as their previous projects but the community they are reaching out is much wider.
“It’s good to have something that showcases people’s stories, I think there’s an incredible value to celebrating people’s knowledge and realizing that people who come here have invaluable things to share with our society.”
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