33rd Master Storytellers Festival Master Storyteller Line Up
Dr Gcina Mhlophe
Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe was born October 24th, 1958 in Hammarsdaleto a Xhosa mother and Zulu father. She matriculated at the Mfundisweni High School in Transkei in 1979 and briefly worked as a housemaid in Johannesburg before beginning as a cadet journalist at Rhodes University. After a brief course in filmmaking she started as a newsreader for the Press Trust, BBC Radio's Africa Service and ZBC. Mhlophe went on to establish herself as a multi-talented multilingual actor and activist, poet, and playwright, Composer and director, infusing storytelling with poetry. Widely translated into all of South Africa's official languages and international languages such as German, French, Italian, Swahili, & Japanese. Mhlophe has received a terrific array of prizes and awards, including the BBC Africa Service for Radio Drama Award, the Edinburgh Festival's Fringe First Award, the Josef Jefferson Award, and OBBIE.
As an ardent campaigner for literacy, Mhlophe's endeavors have been recognized with honorary doctorates from the Universities of London, KwaZulu Natal, Pretoria and Fort Hare. Her guest appearance at the 2006 FIFA Worl Cup South African handover ceremony in Germany and the Arctic Winter Games in Canada, 2010, brought South Africa's rich cultural heritage to the world's attention.
Toni Simmons, author and storyteller, graduated from Fisk University, where she majored in speech and drama. After receiving a Master's degree in Library Science, she began working as a children's librarian combining her knowledge of children's literature and creative drama in storytelling sessions. She continued this activity while working for public libraries in Florida (Miami), Iowa (Des Moines), Minnesota (Minneapolis, and Texas (Cedar Hill). As a professional storyteller, she brings new life to the stories she tells with the use of rhythms, songs, and audience participation drawing listeners in and placing them inside of the story. Her work appeals to audiences of all ages and includes a wide variety of literature from various cultures across the world.
Valerie Tutson is a graduate from Brown University with an master's in Theatre Arts and has worked as a professional storyteller, cultural artist and champion since 1991. As a Rhode Island native, her creativity has reached all across the country and the world. She uses the power of storytelling to create and sustain individuals and community. Valerie believes her purpose is to share stories of the world with the people of the world so we can better know ourselves and one another. Storytelling is her vehicle for building bridges - across cultures, class, and generations. She is a founding member of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers receiving numerous awards for her work in the community including: The Legacy Award from Big Brothers and Sisters of Rhode Island, Oasis International Community Service Award, and a Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Rhode Island College.
Mitch Capel ( Gran'daddy Junebug) is a master storyteller, recroding artist, published author and poet. He is mesmerizing as he brings stories to life, while plucking at the heart strings. He as been described as a "Word Magician", a "National Treasure" , "Unexpectedly Powerful" and a "Transformer of Lives." Mitch first began writing and performing skits at the age of 12 and has over 35 hours worth of stories stored to memory. He has been featured at numerous schools, libraries, museums and festivals since 1985 including DuSable in Chicago; The Kennedy Center in DC; The National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN; The Smithsonian's 2009 Folklife Festival on the National Mall and the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. He has been the Artist-In-Resdidence at the International Storytelling Center and has received accolades and awards from local state and national organizations for his work with youth.
Kunama Mtendaji is a veteran teacher teacher and performer of storytelling, music and dance. He was born into a family that excelled in the oral tradition on his mother's side and musical instrumentation on his father's side. He learned traditional drumming and dance of the African diaspora during his college years at the performing Arts Training Center, directed by the renowned dancer and anthropologist, Katherine Dunham. Baba Kunama was a principal drummer with the Chosane Dance Company, directed by his teacher, legendary master drummer Mor Thiam. While working as curator of the Katherine Dunham Museum, he deepened his understanding of "functional communal performing arts". Kunama launched his first programs to teach youth about African Cultures in 1981.
Nothando Zulu is a Master Storyteller out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has perfromed for thousands of children and adults for more than five decades. As a resident of Minneapolis for over fifty years, she has been described as one of the most engaging and captivating storytellers of her time. As a co-founder of Black Storytellers Alliance, Nothando has used the ancient Oral art of storytelling to reach the minds of all. As a performance artist, comedian, and community activist she has gained both national and international exposure. Nothando is in several performance rosters including: Gives African American Literature, Young Audiences of Minnesota, & COMPAS. She has performed on the National Storytelling Network and at various National Association of Black Storytellers Conferences and Festivals. She has visited both Ghana and South Africa to enhance her storytelling and actively uses what she learns to build bridges for community and our relics of the past.