What’s in a Story: Storytelling in Yale-NUS

Features

William Hoo

William dodges mid-life crises and other terrible calamities on a regular basis, courtesy of your local favourite ineffable divinity. When he’s not struggling too much with being a young adult, he enjoys coffee and eccentricity a little too much for his own good. But most of all, he tries to write like his life depends on it so that his life can someday depend on it.

story | William Hoo, Staff Writer

photo | YNC Storytellers

 

Ever found yourself straining to find the right words, or crooning lyrical struggles of the human condition in your solo shower concerts? When we engage in these acts, what are we really attempting to do? These small acts of self-expression are our own ways of engaging in storytelling. Storytelling is an integral part of our social lives, yet rarely do we take note of it until we realize we are unable to communicate what we feel to other people. Yale-NUS College’s new student organisation — Storytellers — seeks to change how we perceive storytelling and more.

Before becoming a full-fledged student organization, Storytellers was only an idea for a storytelling project that Ada Foo ‘22 envisioned before coming to study at Yale-NUS College. It was during the Class of 2022 Freshman Orientation that the idea grew into something bigger.

Foo noticed that while there were platforms for expression throughout campus, there was no consolidated platform for storytelling. Participating in the Week 7 Learning Across Boundaries (LAB): Narrating the Modern City further inspired her to start Storytellers.

Ashley Sim ‘22, Vice-President of Storytellers, wanted to democratize art through promoting multidimensional, cross-disciplinary modes of storytelling. More importantly, Sim says, Storytellers aims to shed light on unacknowledged narratives on campus.

But what sets Storytellers apart from the rest of the student organizations are the values it stands for.

Removing the barriers to entry in art is central to Storytellers’ mission. Citing common lamentations like “I cannot draw” or “I cannot take photos”, Foo and Sim contend that it is not quality that takes precedence, but content. Storytellers is meant as a platform for comfortable self-expression and to create alternative modes of expression. Storytellers wants to challenge the perception of storytelling as a purely verbal art in crafting narratives. As Sim notes, “anything and anyone can tell a story.”

The group is also aware that when it comes to creative endeavors, there is always a tendency to feel that one lacks the skills necessary to translate vision into reality. Storytellers wants to empower individuals in crafting their narratives. The group is a safe space and community for freedom of expression that allows for the building and sharing of skills between members. Members can expect to attain a holistic set of skills for cross-disciplinary storytelling; for instance, embarking on creative projects that blend visual art with poetry, or simply workshopping with other members with expertise outside of one’s field.

On a larger platform, Storytellers collaborates with other student organizations and external partners to foster cross-disciplinary storytelling. Through the curation of panel series, workshops and art spaces, the group intends to contribute to the existing art scene in Yale-NUS and create an art-making culture.

Some concrete steps that Storytellers has undertaken towards establishing their presence on campus include collaborating with Yale-NUS’ astronomy club, Ashen Light Astronomy. Storytellers captioned images for their astro-photo journal with narrative expression not limited by form, including short poems, mini sagas, QR-code embedded music, or even another image.

As for upcoming events, Foo and Sim expressed excitement for a panel discussion on the topic of storytelling through different mediums where experts from disparate fields are invited to share how the language of their disciplines tell important stories.

Sim also stresses the importance of highlighting stories that may have gone unnoticed or unquestioned: the inner social lives of the campus cleaning staff, or raising a family on campus as a faculty member. How do we understand the weight of lives that we have never known? Stories give us a fuller understanding of life.

A strong emphasis on the humanizing power of storytelling, an affinity for the interesting and the unexpected, the quaint and the quirky— these are representative of Storytellers’ core character as a student organization.

You’ve heard their story, so what’s yours?

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