Siphiwe Mpye believes that storytelling is a part of our DNA as Africans. Although not exclusively restricted to oral tradition, he sees it as an important way in which history, stories, fables and wisdom are passed on. Having worked in media for more than 16 years, he was fascinated about how this tradition, which was also about family and community, would look in a formalised, urban environment – in post-apartheid South Africa, where much goes unsaid. While the country is still transitioning into a more inclusive society, he believes that most South Africans have not healed, and that the process needs to include o oading, sharing and venting.
Imbawula seeks to provide that platform (one evening a month at The Bean Republic café in Illovo, Joburg), while providing aid to the Quarphix Foundation, a youth development organisation. Imbawula fosters an atmosphere of reconnection on a human level. While social media is sometimes seen as disconnecting people from each other, Mpye acknowledges that social media plays a big part in getting the audience there in the fi rst place.
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There are many storytellers who have had an infl uence in his life. ‘[US author] James Baldwin is a constant: I reread him regularly; Bob Marley showed us that storytelling need not be a convulsed a air and Credo Mutwa continues to inspire with his magical bravery in thought and practice,’ he says. Imbawula chooses storytellers from all walks of life with exciting and eclectic stories. While storytelling initiatives around the world, like The Moth in the US, tend to theme their evenings, for this concept Mpye has chosen to run his plaform in a more fl exible way: opening it to chance, in the hope that the audience will be transported to varied emotional places.