#MeetTheStoryteller – Episode 8
Name: Baeletsi Tsatsi
From: South Africa
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Baeletsi, it was such a pleasure meeting you during the 2018 edition of Sigana International Storytelling Festival. How did you get into storytelling?
In 2013 a friend of mine, Mahlatsi Mokgonyana invited me to a show he had been invited to. It was the preview show that Kwesukela Storytelling Academy was taking to the National Arts Festival. It was from seeing Nozi Mosiea, Majesty Mnyandu and Mpho Molikeng performed that I knew where my journey was headed.
After I completed my drama training at the Market Theatre Laboratory, I pursued storytelling with the intentions of making it a full time career.
Why not storytelling? No discipline has stirred me like storytelling has. I remember performing at The Story Club in Cape Town in 2017 and having an out of body experience. Stories have changed my life in ways unimaginable. I used to be so nasty in high school and a few years after that. My Mxit name was even Nasty M, but with storytelling, I’ve completely changed. I’m softer, I’m compassionate and I’m more willing to listen.
Do you use costumes in your performances?
Coming from a theatre background, I used costume and lighting to tell my stories but I soon realized that stories and the body are sufficient to achieve the goal. So I wear a simple dress usually when I perform, and perform in just general lighting. I am a solo performer and have been since I started performing. Solo performance allows me to challenge myself as there is nowhere for me to hide. I did a two year residency at Bridge Books, a local book store and did monthly storytelling performances there. I took a break from that last month with the intentions to work out a new format. I have started performing in people’s homes: Story and Dinner Bash with Baeletsi Tsatsi. I have written short stories published by the FunDza Literacy Trust, which are both published as hard copies and can be read online.
Stories and Dinner sounds like an interesting concept. Tell us more about it.
Stories and Dinner with Baeletsi is a private event. A host invites friends over for a dinner party, she prepares the food or it’s a bring and share and I bring an hour long show. I choose the theme of stories, but it is always traditional African stories.
What is your creative muse?
People. Often when I meet a new story, I close my eyes and trace the people I’ve met and seen. Especially the people of my grandmother’s village, they live in a lot of my stories.
How has your storytelling journey been?
It has been nothing like I thought it would be. My 2018 highlights have been winning the J.J Renaux Emerging Storyteller Grant and being invited to perform at the Sigana International Storytelling Festival in Nairobi Kenya. The challenges are that people have forgotten what the art of oral tradition is, so constantly having to explain what it is that I do. But my greatest success has to be the tenacity that I’ve stubbornly held on to over the four years of my practice. I have faith that I am on the right path and I will not give up on myself.
What key skills do you feel are a must have for a performance storyteller?
Confidence. I don’t know if this is a skill, but a storyteller needs to be confident. Confident both in their craft and in the story you’re telling. You must trust that the story you’re telling is the right one and have the confidence to tell it.
If you were not a storyteller, what would you have wanted to be?
What tips would you give someone who wants to take Performance Storytelling as a career?
Work at it. Spend time in rehearsal, it shows. Work with someone, a director sort of person. You can’t see what the listener sees, work with someone who can watch you. Read, listen and read some more.
Please share with us the top five items in your bucket list.
- To travel all of the African countries with stories.
- To bungee jump.
- To write a book of stories set in my grandmother’s village.
- To drive a race car
- To perform SOLD OUT shows
Give us a parting shot 🙂
I’m constantly amazed at the risk God keeps on taking with me. I look at my past and my present even and I don’t know what it is that convinced God that I am the person worthy of this calling. I am forever grateful. To whoever is reading this: God has faith in you, show up for the party, you are the guest of honor.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Where can we find you on social media?
F: Baeletsi Tsatsi