Storytelling is probably one of the most ancient arts known to man. It has evolved over the years and today, the treasure of stories that we have is priceless. These stories have acted as the mirrors to the psychology of the individuals as well as the societies. Stories reflect the sense of amazement, the struggles and aspirations of the times that they are set in.
This is a collection of twenty four tiny stories written for Twitter during the Fiction Festival, 2014 (@TWfictionfest). I do not see them as mere stories captured in 140 characters, but as few ideas that attempt to break free from the word limit and grow in to something that has the potential to touch the readers the same way a short story, novel or a film does. If these stories are able to achieve that, then that would be a victory to the storyteller in me.
Twitter Fiction Festival 2014 was a great experience for me in many ways. I got to read many amazing stories in the form of tweets and also got to interact with many artists and writers through twitter. Reading their stories and seeing their art have inspired me to write few stories of my own. My twitter followers and friends have liked these stories immensely and have been supportive with this. I have turned these stories in to an ebook and the book also has received overwhelming response from the readers.
I would like to thank the artists Margarita Gokun (@MGokunArt) from Madrid, Spain and Dugaldo Estrada (@Dugaldo) from New York City, USA for their illustrations and art that have inspired some of the stories here. I express my gratitude to the storytellers and artists on twitter for inspiring me to write fiction.
Few months back I had a chance to know about this performing art of Japan from Prof. Sumio Murijiri, who is a Fellow of Tokyo Foundation and a project scholar of Waseda University, Theater Museum, Tokyo. He is also a visiting professor of Mangalore University. His research focuses on the comparative study of Hayachine kagura ( A performing art in Japan) and Yakshagana (A folk and semi-classical performing art of coastal Karnataka).
I was working for visual media and my work during that time was to carry out research about art and culture of coastal Karnataka for television programs. I approached the professor to know about his research and to take get a sense of his analysis of Tulu culture. During our talks the professor told me about Hayachine Kagura. He showed me the photographs and videos of this art. He gave me an article written by him about the similarities between these two art forms. It was interesting to know about two art forms which are centuries old and are geographically separated by thousands of miles to have some striking similarities between them.
In Japanese language, Hayachina means ‘sacred mountain’. As we know most of the Japanese relegions give a great importance to the mountains. For them these mountains are life and God. There are many villages in the foothills of these mountains following the age-old traditions of Japan.These villages are isolated from the modern towns which makes them sustain their traditional lifestyle like they do. There are many Kaguras still existing in these mountains, Hayachine kagura being one among them.
Hayachine Kagura was initially a part of royal traditions. Gradually, it got separated from the palace and developed in to being a folk art. Hayachina Kagura is performed in villages. Just like Yakshagana, there are many troups which roam from one village to another. These troups perform only in the pre-decided villages called as ‘kasumys’. It rarely happens that one troupe performing in the village allocated to other troupe. But when this thing happens, two artists from opposite troupes have to wear the Lion Mask and battle it out. The one whose mask falls first or the one whose lion’s tongue comes out will be the loser.
The artists keep the box containing the dress and other things in a house called as the ‘Kagura house’. This is either a priest’s house or the house of a daughter of an artist from their own troupe. The villagers have a great deal of respect for these houses. The stage to perform kagura is usually the front yard of a house. The stage set-up is quite simple. The stage is open from three sides and the audience can watch the performance from these sides. The backdrop of the stage carries the symbol of the troup.
There is a special ritual to mark the taking of the dress from the box. Then a lion dance follows. The initial phase of kagura is of prayers. Then the performance starts which is full of hand movements. Unlike Yakshagana, there are no dialogues to the charecters. The artists have to say everything from their facial expressions and hand movements. Sometimes the charecters are seen wearing the masks and sometimes without the masks. One more feature of this kagura is all the actors are given same preference. In Yakshagana that is not the case. Senior artist is always considered superior to the young artists and they appear in the later phase of the performance of yakshagana. In Kagura the singer of the backstage play a vital role, which makes him the key person or a director of the of the show.
In Yakshagana, the basic scripts are usually are based on ancient mythology and are taken from the writings of ‘Parthisubba’. Hayachina Kagura also follows the same path. The Kagura songs are based on the traditional mountain worshipping scripts of Japan. Professor Morijiri finds lot of such similarities between these two art forms. There should be more research on this area.