Becoming StoryKeepers of the Announcing

of the Coming of the Sun

Dear StoryKeeper

It was 5h30, the magical hour, just before the break of dawn, and on this cold and cloudy Spring morning, I was sitting next to the fire who has been my companion in keeping the flame of many stories that matter to me dearly. And this time was no exception, the fire kept me warm as I explored the theme, Announcing of the Coming of the Sun, in a talk for this year’s story gathering. Come and join me in my garden next to the fire, and also in my 6-month old vegetable garden, where you will see the beautiful unfolding of an alternative story. You can watch this 12-minute talk here.

The question I held in preparation for this talk, was:
What is our work to do as the ones closely living and working with narratives and all the possibility it holds in the night and in the dawn so that it will announce the coming of the sun?

This exploration brought me to our role as StoryKeepers who have the capacity to make meaning and to make story and to the invitation to listen, ask questions, re-tell and weave stories as StoryWhisperers and StoryWeavers in ways that invite others to move through this extraordinary night so that we become co-authors of an alternative world.

When it is night, what can we do, how can we hold the dawn as we go through the night, and what will announce the coming of the sun? What is our work to do in these extraordinary times?

In the night, StoryKeepers ask careful curious questions about all the stories that seem to be told as “the way things are.” The dawn belongs to the StoryWhisperers, who live alternative stories to the night and open our imagination to the breaking of the dawn of an alternative. The rising of the sun comes when we retell, connect and become StoryWeavers as we weave into this world, these alternative or counter narratives that can collectively spark our imagination for a different world.
In this blogpost I will elaborate on my talk and provide Secrets, Magical Doors, Roles, Curiosities and Examples we can consider as we move through the night, into the dawn and announce the coming of the sun.

Becoming StoryKeepers of the Announcing  of the Coming of the Sun
The role of the StoryKeepers

Why do StoryKeepers have to announce the coming of the sun?

A Secret
The stories of the night, represent for me the stories that we so often hear tagged with lines like, “this is just the way things are” or “this will never change” or “this is how it has always been” in the world. These kinds of stories can overwhelm us, because of their certainty and also because they do not have an address where we can go to lay our complaint or offer an alternative.
The stories of the night, come from long histories, traditional powers and the markets and support many problem stories that make the person the problem as it hides its role and its origins.

A Role
The role of the StoryKeepers is to dare to ask careful curious questions to these night stories. These explorations remind me of the irreverence so well known to the tradition of the Carnival because it makes visible and exotic what we take for granted as the way things go and what is normal in our world today.

A Magical Door
In these conversations with the stories of the night, our questions are asked with careful curiosity in ways that we do not know the answer and as we do, a world that seems fixed and certain can open up and make visible the crack in everything.
• How is it that we have come to accept these beliefs and understandings?
• Who benefits if we continue this way of thinking and doing?
• How is this way of life influencing us?
• Where do this way of thinking and doing come from?
• Who benefits if these beliefs and understanding continue to be sustained?
• How does the way things are influence our lives?
• Are there also emerging alternative stories that tell of something different, about a new dawn?

An Example
Everyone Deserves a Holiday is a holiday participation centre in Tourism Flanders that facilitates holidays for people in Flanders that would never otherwise be able to have this experience. In 2016 I first met the team and together we deconstructed and unpacked the world of their work (stories of the night) and the context in which they were providing holidays for people in poverty and with disabilities. In this article (page 11-13) I share the story and a process where we dared to ask questions to the story of the night with its fixed world of ideas and beliefs when it comes to travel and leisure and who is allowed to benefit and enjoy these things.

As StoryKeepers of the announcing of the coming of the sun, what can invite the breaking of the dawn of an alternative in the night of this extraordinary time?

A Secret
The best kept secret is that the stories that are “other” or “alternative” to the “way things are” are often sold as the exception and therefore, nothing special. But the moment we have an exception, the dawn breaks for the possibility of a counter or competing narrative. There is a crack in everything like Leonard Cohen says.
I call those who are practicing these alternative stories, StoryWhisperers, as their work whispers to us of the possibility of the dawn beyond the night.

A Magical Door
As StoryKeepers our work is to listen for these cracks, these exceptions and listen to the StoryWhisperers in ways that do not judge, assume, give advice, but rather hold an openness where you are willing to be transformed by what you hear.
• What kind of stories have you heard recently that have filled you with hope?
• To which of the stories of the night is this story an alternative?
• What would happen if this alternative story would be nourished and cared for?

A Role
As StoryKeepers we listen always for the crack in everything, and when we hear the stories of the StoryWhisperers, we put them in our treasure chest and tell and retell these stories whenever we hear the night around this topic/theme as a gift to spark the imagination.

A Story
On the 12th of March, my colleague, Griet Bouwen and I were standing on the station in Lier, Belgium, just after we completed a Storyweavers training workshop. The new language of lockdowns and the cancelling of work entered my life. As I rushed back to South Africa as soon as possible, all the stories of the night came rushing in, and the anxiety and fear lived close to me. When our own lockdown was announced, a thought re-appeared. I want to finally take the time to plant a vegetable and herb garden. It was my good friend, Griet Bouwen, who was the StoryWhisperer, who sparked my imagination for the possibility of living in a different relationship to the earth and to food. And it was Ron Finley who was the StoryWhisperer, reminding me that “this is no damn hobby, this is life and death. This is our revolution”. These StoryWhisperers show us the crack in everything, and bring us the dawn of alternative possibilities.

• Who is your StoryWhisperers and which stories are calling you to be told and re-told?
• What are you a StoryWhisperer of?

An example
In June 2018 I had the privilege to come alongside a gathering of 130 people living in Nova Scotia, a small province on the east coast of Canada and the ancestral land of the Indigenous Mi’kmaq people. This was a grassroots gathering called How We Thrive, that had come together to build relationships and skills, and to imagine how they could re-author the future of their province. In this article (page 13-14), I share the group process of this gathering that invites communities to whisper the stories that give us glimpses of an alternative world.
This year, the How We Thrive community started with an initiative called, The Narrative Project, that is an example of a community who creates the space to make meaning together as they listen to the StoryWhisperers sharing alternative stories to shine through the cracks—stories that inspire, nourish, challenge and provoke.


A Secret
When all the alternative stories come together, and are woven into a rich tapestry of otherness it might become unstoppable.

A Magical Door
When we hear the alternative stories in our world, they call on us to weave these competing stories into our conversations, to connect StoryWhisperers with one another and to also ask, what is mine to do?
• What is the story that is calling me to whisper?
• Who do I need to connect around this story?
• What would the gift be in our world when this story has more of a say?

A Role
StoryWeavers weave these stories back into the world in some form of documentation or re-telling, and make visible how it is an alternative to the night, connect the story with other alternatives that becomes a movement beyond the way things are.

Origins of the word, practice and training
Storyweaving was created by three women who found each other in their shared love of stories. Marianne Schapmans, director of Everyone Deserves A Holiday – Chené Swart, narrative expert and author of Re-authoring the world – Griet Bouwen, initiator of Nieuwmakers. In this video Co-authoring the future of travel and tourism you can discover more about the journey we have travelled together. Or read this article with the same title.
Storyweaving was developed in 2017 at Everyone Deserves a Holiday and we did our first projects outside this network at KrisKras and Jint, where young people start narrating their international travel, learning and volunteering experiences. In 2019 Storyweavers went in search of Travel to Tomorrow stories for Tourism Flanders.

Storyweaving is the skill to invite, appreciate, listen to and document stories with dignity. Storyweaving is also about discovering meanings, threads, lessons and possibilities throughout the growing collection of stories and can be used as a way of action-oriented research: where learning and change already go together.

To know more, contact Griet Bouwen or Chené Swart

Much gratitude
Thanks again to Harris III Underwood for the invitation speak at #STORY2020 with its beautiful theme, Announcing the Coming of the Sun, that sparked my imagination and thinking around our roles as StoryKeepers, Story Whisperers and StoryWeavers moving through the night and the dawn towards the sun. With much gratitude also to Alan Roberts from Five Star Media for a wonderful morning of filming that birthed this beautiful documentation of my thoughts and stories and to Ilene Sawka for your coaching so that these ideas could become words.

Enjoy the journey and please let me know how it goes in your adventures as StoryKeepers of the announcing of the coming of the sun.

Chené Swart
Your co-adventurer

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