Friday, November 27, 2009

The Storyteller's Box

Traditional storytellers in India often use props, and one of the most elegant and striking is the kavad, or storyteller's box. Part of Rajasthani rural tradition, the kavad is a portable shrine depicting stories from the lives of Rama and Krishna, avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu. It folds out into multiple spreads each with a series of pictures. It's the low-tech precursor to today's PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. The teller points to a picture with the tip of a feather as he tells his tale. Sometimes the stories from different epics are detailed on different sides of the fold-out pages. Each spread often serves more than one purpose, representing one set of characters in one tale, another in the next. It's a nonlinear format that is simultaneously ancient and remarkably fresh and accessible to contemporary children.

Tulika Books now offers a fold-out book, Home, inspired by the design of these story boxes. Here's Nina Sabnani, author of Mukand and Riaz, talking about this new title and its origins.